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Saturday, 8 December 2012

Double jeopardy

Why not pop over to the Pocketeers blog today where we are counting down to Christmas with a heroine for
every day of Advent. Today's heroine touches on an interesting point of English law - double jeopardy, and as I am now writing crime it is something I find fascinating. Not long ago I was visiting Salisbury Cathedral and there, laid out in a glass cabinet, for all to see was the Magna Carta. This document is the basis for the laws under which we live that, for example, protect property and basic human rights. There were in fact a number of versions of the Magna Carter or Great Charter and therefore this wonderful old document perfectly preserved on vellum with superb calligraphy was not the only one. However, it did make the hairs on the back of my neck raise, to see one of the first examples of a Bill of Rights which encapsulates many of the basic laws and freedoms of not just the UK, but the world's democracies. Double jeopardy is a law which up until 2003 meant that you could not in the UK be tried more than once for a murder. So, if you managed to get away with it once, you could be safe in the knowledge that you had bucked the system for ever. The right not to be tried twice was however turned over after 8 centuries partly following the murder of young Stephen Lawrence, a model student whose mother Doreen campaigned for years to uncover Police mistakes and insist the perpetrators were brought to trial. One of them, Dobson, had been tried for Stephen's murder and acquitted. However, many years later, new evidence was uncovered - a jacket with blood and fibres which proved that Dobson must have been at the scene of the murder and had no innocent reason for being there. He was retried and jailed. This fascinating case is one of the reasons why I have turned to writing crime! Double jeopardy is a Hollywood film starring the actress Ashley Judd which explores this theme.

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