From Joshua Rozenberg's report, one might think the Government's decision to repeal the "double jeopardy" rule had been vindicated. Yet the logic of the rule was, in part, expressed in Blackstone's famous dictum "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."
Of course people are wrongly acquitted, just as people are wrongly convicted. The rule against double jeopardy was designed to ensure that the virtually limitless resources of the state were not mustered again and again to secure the conviction of a man once acquitted by a court.
It was a protection against the persecution and ruin of innocents, which sometimes - of course - resulted in the guilty escaping. Proof that a guilty man escaped in this case does not change that or surprise any rational observer.
Those who believe in the rule (enshrined in the US Constitution and therefore not so easily tossed aside on the other side of that Atlantic) have always understood that justice is not perfect. Nothing human is. Yet, at the instigation of a Home Secretary who is as imperfect a human as ever walked, the protection of the rule was lost after 800 years.
This article from the New York Times reports a study which suggests that many innocents are convicted at the first attempt, without the State having a second chance. There is no reason to suppose Britain is any better than the United States in this respect. From my own experience, I would guess it is worse.
Abolishing double jeopardy may have meant justice in the case of Billy Dunlop, but it will mean greater injustice in other cases. One mother's quest for vengeance, pandered to by an uneducated press and an unethical government, may lead to thousands more innocents in our jails. I do not question the lady's intentions. I am sure they were good, but they were the sort of good intentions with which the road to Hell is paved.
The jubilation of the victim's mother is understandable, but her hope that her family's love for the victim has "helped leave a lasting legacy that ... will pave the way for other families to achieve justice," is false and misguided.
The false chat-show notion that a victim somehow automatically acquires extra wisdom, or greater moral standing, leaves us open to the mentality of the lynch-mob.
New Labour knows no better, of course, but one might have hoped for more from the Daily Telegraph.
Telegraph | News | First double jeopardy killer jailed