Criminal Procedure Act signed into law

 

The Criminal Procedure Act, which alters the rules relating to double jeopardy, by permitting retrials in certain circumstances has been signed into law.

The Act was signed into law by President Mary McAleese today.

It permits retrials where the defendant has been acquitted but where the acquittal can be shown to have been undeserved due to the emergence of new and compelling evidence, or because there was interference with the trial process that affected the verdict or where the judge erred in law by, for example, excluding certain evidence.

The Act also amends the current law in relation to victim impact statements, allowing family members of murder victims to address the court. Previously only the victim of a crime was permitted to address the court following the verdict and prior to sentencing.

Family members could only do so at the discretion of the trial judge.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern today ruled out the possibility the removal of the double jeopardy principle in law could be applied retrospectively.

Speaking today, Mr Ahern said the law “will be welcomed by most people, especially by the victims, who feel affronted and scandalised by the knowledge that guilty persons were not being convicted for their crimes”.

The Minister said retrials could only happen in serious cases and only after the courts had granted an application made by the DPP to quash the acquittal and order a retrial.