A Bill to set in statute the long-established principle of Scots law that no-one should be tried twice for the same crime, was supported by the Justice Committee in its report today.
Publishing its stage 1 report, the committee unanimously supports the general principles of the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill introduced by the Scottish Government.
The committee also welcomes the exceptions to the general rule against double jeopardy provided for in the Bill, including where they go beyond what was recommended by the Scottish Law Commission in its 2009 report on double jeopardy, on which the Bill is based. The committee agrees there should be an exception where, in relation to a particularly serious offence, new evidence of guilt emerges after the original trial – and that this should apply retrospectively. However, it suggests that, rather than having a list of qualifying offences, consideration should be given to extending the exception to apply only to cases originally prosecuted on indictment, or tried in the High Court.
The committee supports the other exceptions set out in the Bill. These would apply in cases where evidence later emerges indicating that an acquitted person has admitted to committing the offence, or where the original trial was “tainted”, for example, by the intimidation of a witness.
Committee Convener Bill Aitken MSP said: “The rule against double jeopardy has long been an important principle of Scots law in protecting the citizen against unjust treatment from the state. The Justice Committee strongly supports enshrining this rule in statute.
“We also believe it is right to make a number of carefully limited exceptions to this rule. The committee supports the Bill in allowing those who may have escaped punishment in the past, in certain circumstances and with the appropriate safeguards, to face renewed prosecution for those crimes.”