Post-Acquittal Retrials for Serious Offences in the Irish Criminal Justice Process: Lessons from England and Wales

Dr. Gerard Coffey
Volume 3 Issue 1 Article 2
The common law principle against retrials for the same criminal offence is a fundamental principle of criminal justice and procedure common to legal systems concerned with securing protection of fundamental rights in the criminal justice process. The principle of double jeopardy developed at common law as a special plea in bar against retrials for the same offence following an acquittal or conviction by a court of competent criminal jurisdiction. This was in response to criminal procedure during the medieval period, which did not always provide for a criminal trial on the merits of the case but rather according to the power and resources available to the prosecution authorities as opposed to the adverse position of the accused. Statutory modification of the principle against double jeopardy in England and Wales has been the model for reform in other common law jurisdictions, including Ireland. This reform did not abolish the principle but rather provided for post-acquittal retrials in limited circumstances where fresh and compelling evidence of the accused’s guilt is discovered following an acquittal, or where the acquittal was tainted by an administration of justice offence. This article critically evaluates double jeopardy law reform in England and Wales, and Ireland, with possible implications for the criminal justice process operative in Ireland.

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