Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 30th October 2003.

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Photo of Lord Cooke of Thorndon Lord Cooke of Thorndon Crossbench 6:00 pm, 30th October 2003

My Lords, I rise to make a simple point. I have listened, I hope carefully, to the debate having come to it without any firm view one way or the other. I am in sympathy with the general concept that for the future at least an acquittal should not always be sacrosanct; and that, in particular, if new and compelling evidence—which could not have been adduced at the first trial—comes to light, there should be the possibility of having a second trial if, in all the circumstances, the Court of Appeal thinks it just.

However, the problem, as I see it, is the retrospectivity provision. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson of Lymington, I appreciate that there may be very few cases indeed in which the question of retrospectivity will arise although no doubt the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, may well be correct in saying that there will be in existence a list of potential cases of that kind.

Having listened to the arguments on both sides, superbly and eloquently put, I am left in considerable doubt about whether retrospectivity is justified. There is a basic aversion of the law to retrospective provisions, especially in the criminal field. Therefore, if one is left in any measure of doubt, the correct course, the principal course, should be to reject retrospectivity. It is for that simple reason that I support the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick.