Monday, May 17, 2004

Double jeopardy

On the face of it the government's plans in this area seem fairly reasonable. Allowing the police to go back to correct an "error of justice" where there has been perjury or witness intimidation seems fair enough. But a retrial on the basis of "new and compelling evidence"? I don't think so. Given the number of hoops that must be jumped through to get a re-trial on those grounds, the mere fact that one is being held would be a pre-judgement of guilt which would irreversibly taint the jury.

Yes, it is unjust if murderers escape justice - but it is also unjust if we pre-judge them, or lower our standards to convict them and thus increase the risk of punishing the innocent as well. The general maxim is that it is better for ten guilty men to go free than punish an innocent, and so we should oppose this change. Instead, we should encourage the police to do a proper job the first time round rather than lower our standards in this way.