Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
313. Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of murder trials in which the accused was acquitted on legal, technical or other grounds since 1970; the number of such cases wherein proceedings could be resumed in the event of appropriate legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26295/09]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern): Statistics in relation to murder trials are a matter for the Courts Service, which under the Courts Service Act, 1998 is independent in the performance of its functions (s. 4(3)). Its functions include the management of the courts, (s.5(a)) and provision of court related information (s. 5(c)).
The Criminal Procedure Bill 2009, which is awaiting Committee Stage in Seanad Éireann, creates two exceptions to the rule again double jeopardy. The effect of this long-standing rule is that a person may not be tried twice for the same offence. The Bill provides that (1) where new and compelling evidence emerges after a person’s acquittal; or (2) where evidence emerges that an acquittal is tainted, for example because of witness intimation, perjury or bribery, the Director of Public Prosecutions may apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal for an order quashing the acquittal and seeking a re-trial.
These provisions will apply to persons charged and acquitted after the commencement date — it will not be possible to use them to re-open old cases as I am advised that to do so could be viewed as an interference by the Oireachtas in the administration of justice. In other words, it could be seen as a breach of the constitutional position on the separation of powers.
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