Gavin R. Putland,  BE PhD

Monday, July 24, 2006 (Comment)

Victims in double jeopardy

The proposal to allow double jeopardy in certain criminal cases — now being revived by the Queensland Opposition and the Federal Minister for Revenue — is backed by the same Big Lie as the proposal for majority verdicts: that it would help victims of crime.

Police and prosecutors are aware that a high percentage of murder victims knew and loved their eventual killers. So when a murder is reported, the secondary victims of the crime — including the family of the deceased — automatically become suspects. In the absence of any leads to the contrary, they remain the only suspects.

Furthermore, when victims of theft or arson report the crime, they are automatically suspected of insurance fraud.

Such cases mean that the people most likely to be wrongly convicted of crimes are victims of crime. As majority verdicts would make it easier to convict a victim on the first attempt, so double jeopardy would give the State a second chance to lock up the victim in the event that the first attempt failed (and anyone who thinks the requirement for "new evidence" constitutes some sort of safeguard is obviously not familiar with the findings of any inquiry into police malpractice). Majority verdicts and double jeopardy, both driven by political expediency, are the two jaws of a pincer movement against victims of crime.

I serve notice that if any form of double jeopardy is introduced, and that if I find myself on a jury in the trial of someone who has previously been acquitted of the same alleged offence, I shall uphold the privilege against double jeopardy regardless of the so-called evidence. I further serve notice that if 11–1 majority verdicts are introduced, and that if I subsequently find myself as one of 11 jurors who are minded to convict while the 12th is minded to acquit, I shall change my vote in order to uphold the defendant's right not to be convicted except by a unanimous verdict. I call on all other prospective jurors to do likewise in the same situations.

[Reposted June 27, 2012.]

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