Double jeopardy


Following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Macpherson Report recommended that the double jeopardy rule should be abrogated in murder cases, and that it should be possible to subject an acquitted murder suspect to a second trial if "fresh and viable" new evidence later came to light. The Law Commission later added its support to this in its report "Double Jeopardy and Prosecution Appeals" (2001). A parallel report into the criminal justice system by Lord Justice Auld, a past Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales, had also commenced in 1999 and was published as the Auld Report six months after the Law Commission report. It opined that the Law Commission had been unduly cautious by limiting the scope to murder and that "the exceptions should extend to other grave offences punishable with life and/or long terms of imprisonment as Parliament might specify."
Both Jack Straw (then Home Secretary) and William Hague (then Leader of the Opposition) favoured this measure. These recommendations were implemented—not uncontroversially at the time—within the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and this provision came into force in April 2005. It opened certain serious crimes (including murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, and serious drug crimes) to a retrial, regardless of when committed, with two conditions: the retrial must be approved by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Court of Appeal must agree to quash the original acquittal due to "new and compelling evidence". Pressure by Ann Ming, the mother of 1989 murder victim Julie Hogg—whose killer, William Dunlop, was initially acquitted in 1991 and subsequently confessed—also contributed to the demand for legal change.
On 11 September 2006, Dunlop became the first person to be convicted of murder following a prior acquittal for the same crime, in his case his 1991 acquittal of Julie Hogg's murder. Some years later he had confessed to the crime, and was convicted of perjury, but was unable to be retried for the killing itself. The case was re-investigated in early 2005, when the new law came into effect, and his case was referred to the Court of Appeal in November 2005 for permission for a new trial, which was granted. Dunlop pleaded guilty to murdering Julie Hogg and was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation he serve no less than 17 years.
On 13 December 2010, Mark Weston became the first person to be retried and found guilty of murder by a jury (Dunlop having confessed). In 1996 Weston had been acquitted of the murder of Vikki Thompson at Ascott-under-Wychwood on 12 August 1995, but following the discovery in 2009 of compelling new evidence (Thompson's blood on Weston's boots) he was arrested and tried for a second time. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 13 years.
On 14 November 2019, Michael Weir became the first person to be twice found guilty of a murder. He was originally convicted of the murder of Leonard Harris and Rose Seferian in 1999, but was the conviction was quashed in 2000 by the Court of Appeal on a technicality. In 2018, new DNA evidence had been obtained and palm prints from both murder scenes were matched to Weir. Twenty years after the original conviction, Weir was convicted for the murders for a second time.