Hon Christian Porter BA(Hons) BEc LLB(UWA) MSc(Dist)(LSE) MLA

Hon Christian Porter BA(Hons) BEc LLB(UWA) MSc(Dist)(LSE) MLA

Former Treasurer; Attorney General

    Landmark double jeopardy law reform

    8/09/2011 12:00 AM
     

    Those who have walked free from court of alleged serious offences could face retrial under new laws to be introduced to State Parliament today.

     

    Under the current legal principle of double jeopardy a person may not be tried twice for the same offence.

     

    Attorney General Christian Porter said significant advances in forensic science in recent years had inevitably led to cases where compelling new evidence came to light after a person had been acquitted of a serious offence.

     

    “There are also cases where guilty parties have been acquitted after questionable outcomes involving alleged threatening of witnesses, jury tampering, or through defence witnesses allegedly committing perjury,” Mr Porter said.

     

    “In such cases the interests of justice demand that the person is again brought to court and fairly tried on all currently available evidence.”

     

    Amendments to the Criminal Appeals Act 2004 would enable senior legal officers such as the Attorney General or Solicitor General to apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal for permission to retry an acquitted person if fresh and compelling evidence has come to light.

     

    This would only apply to the most serious offences under WA law where the penalty is life imprisonment or imprisonment for 14 years or more.

     

    Mr Porter said four other Australian jurisdictions had introduced law reforms to address the issue of exceptions to the double jeopardy principle and it was important to bring WA’s justice system in line with community expectations on this issue.

     

    “In several high profile cases, there has been community recognition that the present state of the law is inadequate and produced questionable outcomes,” he said.

     

    “However, any reform to this area of law requires a very careful balance to ensure that justice is done, and the fundamental protections of our justice system are not compromised.”

     

    The legislation has been drafted with the safeguards recommended by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

     

    These include that the retrial must be in the interests of justice; there must be a strong case for retrial; and police may not start investigating an acquitted person without the permission of legal authorities.

     

    Attorney General's office  - 9222 8800