Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Monday, 11 September 2006 14:28 UK

Murder conviction is legal first

Billy Dunlop
Billy Dunlop could not initially be retried for the murder

Billy Dunlop's conviction marks a historic turnaround for British law.

For more than 800 years it was enshrined in law that if someone was acquitted by a jury they could not be retried for the same offence.

However, this double jeopardy rule was scrapped in England and Wales in April 2005.

Dunlop, who had confessed to murder but could not be tried because of an earlier acquittal, was the first case to be referred to the Court of Appeal.

Julie Hogg disappeared from her Billingham home in 1989 and was later found dead.

The local labourer, now 42, was twice tried for her murder but on both occasions the jury failed to reach a verdict and he was formally acquitted in 1991.

While in prison on another charge, he confessed to Miss Hogg's murder.

However, he could only be charged with perjury, and was given a six-year sentence in 2000.

'Interests of justice'

A review of the double jeopardy law was suggested by Lord Macpherson following the killing of Stephen Lawrence and the failed prosecution of those suspected of his murder.

Julie Hogg's mother, Ann Ming, also campaigned for it to be scrapped.

In 2001 the rule was reviewed by the Law Commission, the body that advises the government on legal reform.

Julie Hogg
Julie Hogg's body was hidden behind a bath panel.

This led to a provision under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 allowing the Court of Appeal to quash an acquittal and order a retrial where there was new and compelling evidence relevant to the guilt of the acquitted person and it was in the interests of justice to do so.

The move was not without its critics.

John Wadham, director of civil rights group Liberty, said: "We increase the chances of innocent people being convicted if we remove double jeopardy."

He argued that it could not be right for people to have to repeat the ordeal of a trial and possibly time in prison on remand.

'Handful of cases'

And Michael Napier, president of the Law Society, said the chances of a fair second trial would be "seriously jeopardised" if a jury knew a retrial had been ordered because of substantial new evidence.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ken Macdonald QC, said that he expected no more than a handful of cases to be brought in a year.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said: "There has to be new evidence which was not available at the time of the original trial."

The new evidence in the Julie Hogg murder case was Dunlop's confession.

Just three days before the act came into force Cleveland Police confirmed they were to re-examine the case.

Then, in November, the DPP said that after looking at submissions from the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Cleveland, Martin Goldman, he was satisfied the Crown Prosecution Service should apply to the Court of Appeal for a retrial.



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