Historic Scottish Trial: First Conviction Under New ‘Double Jeopardy’ Law

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Convicted: After 37 years Angus Sinclair has been found guilty of killing two teenage girls (Source: Mirror)

Angus Sinclair’s retrial for the brutal murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott was the first to take place following changes made in Scotland three years ago to the centuries-old ‘double-jeopardy’ principle, which prevented a person being tried twice for the same crime.

The 2011 move paved the way for prosecutors to end Sinclair’s 37-year evasion of justice for the killings which shocked Scotland.

When Sinclair’s first trial for the teenagers’ murders collapsed in 2007 at the High Court in Edinburgh, it seemed the victims’ relatives would always be denied the justice they had craved for their loved ones for so long.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC took over the prosecution case himself after the double jeopardy laws were changed (Daily Mail)

Immediately after the case fell through, Miss Scott’s father expressed his belief that Sinclair was involved in his daughter’s death and stated: ‘I am absolutely shattered – words can’t explain how I feel.

‘Thirty years of trying to get a conclusion … I promised I would stick by this and get justice which, honestly, I don’t think I got today.’  

A number of years would pass before hopes of seeing Sinclair once again in the dock for Christine and Helen’s murders looked like they could become a reality.

Towards the end of 2011, the legislation which aimed to allow the retrial of suspects who may have escaped punishment in the past came into force.

The double jeopardy principle – which stopped an acquitted suspect being tried again – was enshrined in law but exceptions were now permitted.

Under the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act, a suspect could face retrial for a very serious crime if ‘compelling new evidence’ emerged, if the original trial was tainted or where a suspect admitted the offence.

In Sinclair’s case, events moved at a pace. Within months, a new investigation into the World’s End murders was launched under the new double jeopardy laws and prosecutors were soon applying for him to have a retrial.

Once granted, the current Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, decided to personally take charge of prosecuting the case – a sign of how much the Crown wanted the verdict in the landmark trial to go their way.

Speaking after Sinclair’s conviction and sentencing, Mr Mulholland said: ‘The guilty verdict against Angus Sinclair was only made possible after the Scottish Government modernised our legal system by passing the double jeopardy law.

‘I gave the relatives my personal commitment that the Crown would do everything possible to ensure they received justice.

‘The introduction of the double jeopardy law meant I was able to apply for a retrial of Angus Sinclair as Scotland’s first under this legislation.

‘As Lord Advocate I considered it my public duty to personally prosecute such an important case.

‘It was important for the families of Helen and Christine, and in the public interest, that this case was finally resolved and justice was delivered.’

Source: Daily Mail