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Double jeopardy reform still on the agenda.

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Media Release


Minister for Justice and Customs

Senator for Western Australia

E34/04 22 March 2004

Double jeopardy reform still on the agenda

Reform of the double jeopardy rule is still on the agenda despite the lack of agreement between some States and Territories, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said today.

The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG), meeting on Norfolk Island late last week, discussed recommendations for reform of the double jeopardy rule.

The rule against double jeopardy prevents a person who has been acquitted or convicted of an offence from being tried again for an offence relating to the same conduct or event.

Senator Ellison said that whilst some States and Territories disagreed with changing the double jeopardy rule in relation to “fresh and compelling” evidence, it was agreed that further work should be done in relation to a “tainted acquittal.”

Fresh and compelling evidence involves the production of evidence which was not available at the original trial and strongly indicates the guilt of the accused, while a tainted acquittal involves factors such as perjury or jury tampering.

Whilst the Commonwealth, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia agreed that fresh and compelling evidence could provide an exception to the double jeopardy rule in strict circumstances, the remainder of the States and Territories could not agree on this issue.

Further work will be undertaken between these jurisdictions to obtain maximum similarity in relation to double jeopardy matters.

All jurisdictions agreed that further work should continue on proposed changes to the double jeopardy rule in relation to a tainted acquittal.

It was agreed that the result of this further work would be looked at by SCAG when it next met in July.

Senator Ellison welcomed this decision, and hoped that a national approach could be reached later this year in relation to at least the issue of tainted acquittal.

“Where an acquittal has been achieved on the basis of interference with a witness or tampering with a jury, a fair trial has not been conducted and the acquittal should not stand,” he said.

“This is particularly relevant to serious criminals and organised crime, who will stop at nothing in perverting the course of justice.”

The use of fresh and compelling evidence would only be available for a restricted set of “very serious offences” (murder, manslaughter, serious drug offences [where life imprisonment applies], aggravated rape and armed robbery).

Media Inquiries: Simon Troeth (02) 6277 7260/(0439) 300 335