New rules on ending double jeopardy law to be extended
NEW measures ending the double jeopardy rule in the courts are to be expanded to cover a range of offences that mostly carry a mandatory or discretionary life sentence.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern announced his proposal to widen the number of relevant offences yesterday as he piloted his new legislation through the Dail.
The move is part of a series of measures being introduced by Mr Ahern to provide justice for crime victims and the aim is to tilt the balance back towards the victims without interfering with the criminal justice system.
The law will allow cases to be re-opened where:
- Compelling evidence of guilt, such as the emergence of new DNA details or a confession, become available to the prosecution after an acquittal.
- The acquittal is due to an error in law by the judge.
- There is evidence that the acquittal was tainted by interference in the trial process, including witness intimidation.
Victims' families will be given a statutory right to make an impact statement in certain cases before sentence has been passed by the judge, rather than at the discretion of the court.
But the judge will have the power to ban the publication of the impact statement if it deviates from what was intended.