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Try and try again: New laws will allow double jeopardy to apply to more crimes


Double jeopardy laws are set to be expanded in Queensland, allowing people to be retried for offences such as manslaughter and rape.

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Under a bill tabled to Queensland parliament on Wednesday, double jeopardy exceptions would include a further 10 offences.

In Queensland, the double jeopardy defence that prevented a person from being tried or punished twice for the same offence previously only applied to murder.

The new laws will expand exceptions to more offences including manslaughter, attempted murder, unlawful striking causing death, killing an unborn child, rape, incest and repeated sexual conduct with a child.

Limited double jeopardy cases have existed in Queensland and only applied to murder if there was fresh and compelling evidence available to prosecutors and police.

The proposed laws will clarify the definition of fresh and compelling evidence.

Evidence will be defined as fresh if it was not presented in trial or could not have been presented to trial through reasonable efforts by police and prosecution

An appeal framework will be established to enhance the justice system’s ability to respond to wrongful convictions.

A right to subsequent appeal against conviction on the grounds of fresh or new and compelling evidence also forms part of the bill.

Previously, a person could not launch an appeal under double jeopardy laws if having done so already even on the emergence of evidence that indicated a person was innocent.

The only option for a convicted person who had used their right of appeal was a petition to the Governor for a pardon.

The new laws introduce a right of subsequent appeal against conviction on the grounds of either fresh or new and compelling evidence..

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said double jeopardy reforms were essential in enhancing the justice system’s response to possible unjust acquittals and wrongful convictions.

“The rule against double jeopardy promotes fairness to accused persons and the proper administration of justice for victims and the community,” she told parliament on Wednesday.

“However, rigid adherence to the rule would prevent an acquitted person from being re-tried even where significant fresh evidence is later discovered, which may undermine the legitimacy of the acquittal and public confidence in the criminal justice system.”

She said under the new laws, the Director of Public Prosecutions would be able to apply for a person to be retried for an offence for which they have previously been acquitted if there was fresh and compelling evidence and it was in the interest of justice.

“A re-trial of an acquitted person is an extraordinary proceeding, and it is for this reason that the bill expands the fresh and compelling evidence double jeopardy exception only to the prescribed offences,” she said.

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