The Government's manifesto includes a commitment to reform the double jeopardy rule in cases involving murder, and the Government will do so when parliamentary time allows.
In the meantime, we will be giving careful consideration to Sir Robin Auld's recent recommendation that the reform should apply to a wider range of offences.
I know that my right hon. Friend is very anxious to take the House with him in this matter. Does he agree that the provision of information is vital if he is to do so? Yet when I asked how many cases the change in the law is likely to lead to, I was told that the number is not known because the police do not investigate after an acquittal. When I asked how many cases per year fall within the sentencing category, how many lead to convictions and how many of those convictions are overturned on appeal, I was told that the answer was available only at disproportionate cost. Before we overturn a rule that has served us well for 900 years, will my right hon. Friend make sure that that information is made available to the House?
I am well aware of my hon. Friend's careful consideration of this matter. He has partly answered his own question about the likely number of cases. The information is not available because the police do not generally seek fresh evidence against someone who has been acquitted of an offence. However, in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, the Director of Public Prosecutions suggested that there might be a handful of cases involving murder each year.
Does the Minister realise that the proposed change in the law is very controversial? Will he give an undertaking that if the Government are determined to make the change, it will be limited to murder cases? In the event of a second trial, what criteria will be applied to ensure that individuals do not have the threat of an infinite number of trials hanging over them?
As I said, we are carefully considering the views of Sir Robin Auld, and those of the Law Commission, on whether double jeopardy reform should be extended. We are consulting on those proposals at the moment and we will make our views known in due course.
The Law Commission has said that if a second trial is to proceed, there must be compelling new evidence of guilt and the court must be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to quash the acquittal. We will be considering the Law Commission's views as part of our consultation before final proposals are introduced in legislation.