Double Jeopardy: Necessary for Justice?

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  • Topic: Law, Double jeopardy, Appeal
  • Pages : 5 (1269 words )
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  • Published : December 6, 2010
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This essay will argue that the amendments made to the double jeopardy rule were necessary to improve justice. It will first show that the amendments improve the possibility of achieving justice on principle and for victims by holding the guilty accountable. It will then proceed to examine claims that the implementation of the amendments can create injustice, arguing that the benefits for justice outweigh the costs of such injustices. Thirdly, the essay will discuss how the amendments, including the retrospective effect, improve justice as new DNA evidence is discovered. Finally, it will analyze improvements to justice through the amendments’ positive effects on the justice system.

1. Holding the guilty accountable
In the Third Report of the Home Affairs Select Committee, it was stated that ‘the whole point of a criminal justice system is to bring criminals to justice’. The double jeopardy rule contradicts this, giving guilty individuals effective ‘immunity from conviction and punishment’ after acquittal. The adjustments hold such individuals legally accountable for their actions indefinitely, as opposed to until the verdict is announced. Hence although it is unlikely that all acquitted criminals will be brought to justice, justice is still improved in principle as they remain liable for their wrongdoings.

The most tangible form of justice attainable from the amendments would be for victims and their family and friends. The double jeopardy rule creates an imbalance in the justice system as it protects in absolute terms the rights of the defendant over that of the victim and their families as in the case of Julie Hogg. The availability of appeal for defendants causes further injustice as the double jeopardy rule prevents retrials in the same situations in reverse scenarios. The amendments bring a balance to the justice system by attaining justice for victims and their families and taking their rights into account.

2. Interests of justice outweigh potential injustices against defendants There is a need to consider possible injustices against the defendant to ascertain whether such amendments ultimately advance justice, including abuse of the amendments by prosecutors and investigators for personal vendettas and the acquitted defendant’s right to ‘repose’ through finality. By allowing only one appeal application and the strict approach towards the appeals process, an abuse of the process without merit would be highly difficult. Absolute finality for the defendant would unjustly give the defendant exclusive immunity. A victim can never be sure that they will not be summoned to testify again in court. The law also does not prohibit civil lawsuits against the defendant, which conflicts with the principles of ‘repose’. As they are not absolute and at times unjust, the abovementioned concerns take a subordinate role in the interests of justice.

3. DNA evidence and need for retrospective inclusion for justice Recent scientific developments could be instrumental in bringing guilty individuals to justice. The House of Commons references a scenario where DNA development caused retrospective identification of a criminal. It is with these developments in mind that amendments to the double jeopardy principle are necessary as it presents opportunities to achieve justice where it was previously impossible. Not including the retrospective provision would be severely unjust as it would cause benefits from the abovementioned developments to be lost and creates ‘arbitrary distinction(s) between persons who happened to have been acquitted before and after the relevant date’.

4. Positive ramifications for the justice system
The way the justice system operates and is perceived is essential to the preservation of justice. The appearance of criminals who are untouchable by the law causes the law to look impotent and ‘may undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system’. The amendments to the double...
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