Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 30th October 2003.

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Photo of Lord Cooke of Thorndon Lord Cooke of Thorndon Crossbench 7:15 pm, 30th October 2003

My Lords, I defer to the noble Earl's infinitely greater knowledge of the subject and will refrain from entering into that in any more depth. Whatever view is taken of that question, on the issue of whether the proposed legislation is in any way contrary to the spirit of the common law, that is not so as far as concerns the future. Surely, it is consistent with the common law that in future a person accused of a crime should know that if he or she is acquitted there may nevertheless be perhaps a slight possibility that he or she may be retried if new and compelling evidence emerges and if a fair trial can be had. There is nothing abhorrent to the common law principle—the principle of autrefois acquit, as I was always brought up to say—because that is a known possibility that the possible offender faces. That is entirely different from the situation of somebody who has been acquitted in the past on the understanding that that is final, and is now suddenly faced with the prospect of a retrial owing to legislative change.