Double Jeopardy Reform

Double Jeopardy Reform

In 2007 the Queensland Government passed reforms on the defence of double jeopardy. The Criminal Code (Double Jeopardy) Amendment Act 2007 amended the Criminal Code, allowing for 2 exceptions to the double jeopardy rule, allowing persons acquitted of an offence to be retried.

  • The Court may order a person to be retried for the offence of murder where there exists fresh and compelling evidence; alternatively
  • The Court may order a person be retried for an offence that is punishable by life imprisonment or by a period of imprisonment of 25 years where there is evidence of a tainted acquittal. A tainted acquittal is an acquittal where the accused or another person has been convicted of an administration of justice offence in relation to the proceedings that led to the acquittal, and if not for the offence a conviction would have been more likely than not.

Notably however:

  1. These changes only apply to acquittals that occurred after the passing of the law; and
  2. The changes also do not apply if the person was acquitted, but found guilty of a lesser offence, e.g a person is acquitted of murder, but found convicted of manslaughter.

Early this month the Queensland Attorney-General stated that a ‘significant roadblock to justice will be removed’ by removing the clause restricting the exceptions to double jeopardy to acquittals that occurred after the amendments were passed in 2007.

This would mean that a retrial would be allowed for any past acquittal on the charge of murder where fresh and compelling evidence arises, or where an offence punishable by 25 years or life imprisonment is the subject of a tainted acquittal. The law would no longer have regard to when the acquittal occurred. This puts Queensland into line with other States.

Some media outlets have reported that the double jeopardy defence is being removed in its entirety. This is not the case. As recently as R v Dribble double jeopardy has been used as a valid and effective defence post the 2007 reforms.

It remains to be seen which cases the Queensland Government will seek to be retried