Stephen Lawrence verdict: no, not happy about it

No, not because I\’m some scumbag racist, no, not because it\’s a bad idea that murderers go to jail. Rather, this:

But in 2005 a chink of light emerged when the double jeopardy rule was abolished, meaning the men could be re-tried.

Double jeopardy is one of our protections against them. Us as citizens against those who would rule us.

The abolition of it leaves us open to continual prosecution: if they don\’t manage to get a jury to convict us first time they can just try and try again.

This is a very good example of why hard cases make bad law. That racist murderers go to jail, Hurrah!

That all 65 million of us are stripped of a protection in order to do so, Booo!

32 comments on “Stephen Lawrence verdict: no, not happy about it

  1. Isn’t this just making the courts like EU referendums? Police don’t like the initial verdict, have another go?

    Or as AngryExile expanded:

    Let’s look at a more mundane parallel. Let’s say you’d been done for speeding and decided to fight the ticket in court, and you discovered that the device the police caught you on was supposed to be calibrated daily but in fact they’d only been doing it once a week. As a result you’re found not guilty and sent on your way. Now imagine that the law is changed so that the speed device was now allowed to be calibrated once a month and that speeding motorists who’d been acquitted by a court once could be dragged back in again, except this time they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

  2. I’m not sure I understand the double jeopardy protection.

    Let me get this right: Pre 2005, If I murdered someone but was acquitted on the basis of some flimsy evidence but a few years later they found incontrovertible proof that I was guilty they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it? I can understand that there shouldn’t be a retrial if there is no new evidence but if there’s a smoking gun that wasn’t in the original trial? I don’t see who it’s protecting apart from guilty men? Admittedly, it’s very difficult to ascertain what is a sufficient amount of new evidence but isn’t this what the appeal court is for?

    An NO, it’s not just “have another go”. It’s a new accusation based on fresh evidence.

  3. Let me get this right: Pre 2005, If I murdered someone but was acquitted on the basis of some flimsy evidence but a few years later they found incontrovertible proof that I was guilty they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_jeopardy#United_Kingdom would suggest not:

    In Connelly v DPP ([1964] AC 1254), the Law Lords ruled that a defendant could not be tried for any offence arising out of substantially the same set of facts relied upon in a previous charge of which he had been acquitted, unless there are “special circumstances” proven by the prosecution. There is little case law on the meaning of “special circumstances”, but it has been suggested that the emergence of new evidence would suffice.[24]

  4. Norris’ charges were dropped before the first trial, so he wasn’t convicted under the new double jeopardy rules. But Dobson was originally acquitted.

    To be honest, I take if anything a harder line on this: private prosecutions for murder are rare, and I cannot avoid thinking that the Lawrences were mistaken in engaging in one. For sure, the police were mis-handling the case and some of them were probably doing so because they didn’t care much if another black teenager was killed on the streets of London. And I too am glad that a couple of murderers have been locked up.

    But the rules were changed retrospectively to give them another chance. I’m reminded of that well-known quote from A Man for all Seasons about tearing down all the laws of England to pursue the devil. Getting rid of the defence against double jeopardy was a classic example of doing the wrong thing for the right reason.

  5. “I’m reminded of that well-known quote from A Man for all Seasons about tearing down all the laws of England to pursue the devil. “

    It has to be a white devil, though…

  6. ” It’s a new accusation based on fresh evidence.”

    Evidence discovered by a private lab. The smallest ever drop of blood to secure a conviction.

    This case is a ground breaker for all kinds of reasons, not just the double jeopardy one…

  7. Justice has finally been served in part, thought there are others who have got away.

    There now remains the apportioning of blame, those who merely took part being less culpable of murder than whoever stabbed Stephen Lawrence twice (said to be Acourt?).

    Maybe a fifteen – twenty stretch for being there, life for the stabber.

    There was indeed new evidence, a new trial is appropriate.

    Now is not the time to be frothing about double jeopardy – which is not to say that concerns thereof are unfounded.

  8. Am I alone in having severe reservations about this trial? The Lawrence murder must be one of the highest-profile cases in history. It has been in all the papers – for years. It has been the subject of inquiries and investigations, all of which have been widely reported. There has been a previous trial involving one of the defendants. Given all of this, was there ever any possible outcome other than conviction? I can’t see that this in any way constituted a fair trial.

  9. “Now is not the time to be frothing about double jeopardy – which is not to say that concerns thereof are unfounded.”

    Now is precisely the time to do it. The verdict has been passed and the case still fresh in the memory. We should not procrastinate on this.

  10. “Am I alone in having severe reservations about this trial? ” …. no you are not the only one, but if we accept the forensics then there is a (murder) case to answer.
    Also, they probably are guilty.

  11. “Also, they probably are guilty.”

    So are a lot of Muslims accused of terrorism-related crimes. Or envirowhackos accused of trespass. Shall we skip the trials and go straight to the sentencing, therefore?

    Or….is that different somehow?

    You see, johnny bonk, what seems a tool to use against your ‘enemies’ is never, ever seen as something that, should the balance of power change, could be used against YOU…

  12. At least the sentencing needs to be based on the rules in place at the time, when the severity of an offence was based on actions and not thoughts. Alas, I’m hearing various complaints that the sentence will be lighter than it would be if the same offence had been comitted after we decided that killing someone for being black/gay/jewish is much worse than just killing them for the lolz.

  13. ” Alas, I’m hearing various complaints that the sentence will be lighter than it would be if the same offence had been comitted after we decided that killing someone for being black/gay/jewish is much worse than just killing them for the lolz.”

    And a lot of idiots complaining that they were sentenced according to sentencing guidelines for juveniles (as they were when they committed the crime) when ‘they are now adults!’.

    /doublefacepalm

  14. Agreed. But weren’t they convicted because of advancements in forensic science?
    Maybe I’ve watched too much LA Law rather than Rumpole, but couldnt this case have been reopened due to new evidence?

  15. “were probably doing so because they didn’t care much if another black teenager was killed on the streets of London” … NO … assumed it was a black on black crime, yes. Assumed it was drugs related black crime, yes. Assumed that the other black (Dwayne) was implicated, yes. Failed to see it for the outrageous hate murder that it was, yes – but please don’t say they don’t care about young blacks getting killed. They do, we all do.

  16. …see it for the outrageous hate murder that it was…

    Outrageous, yes. But why the need for the word “hate”? Is the victim any more dead because it was, it seems, motivated by racism? Is the killing of someone because of racism any more egregious than killing someone because of a desire to get revenge? Why do we speak of “hate” murders but not “vengeance” murders?

  17. “Am I alone in having severe reservations about this trial?”

    Also no. It was a particularly vile crime, yes. It is good for murderers to go to gaol, yep. But the due process aspects of it are highly questionable, and having a fair legal system is more important than a conviction in one case: even this one.

    Personally, I want the possibility of guilty men walking free to exist as a consequence of police and prosecutorial incompetence. Why? Because it will discourage such incompetence. The last thing we want are police and prosecutors cutting corners and making things up because the rules let them get away with doing so.

  18. @PST … because it was a hate crime and if they had seen it as such at first then their all important first response might have been different (looking for white suspects). They took it for a black on black crime (afaik) – drugs, gangs whatever and so went barking up the wrong street.

    I was commenting on their mistakes, not the relative evils of one murder v another.

  19. It’s pretty clear to me that they will both be out in less than five years when an appeal is granted and their convictions overturned.

    If the chain of evidence is suspect, then you have no evidence.

  20. IIRC the original recommendation for the ending of double jeopardy covered to counts in murder cases but New Labour lived up to their authoritarianism and extended it to cover drug smuggling, terrorism and a number of other crimes.

  21. Sime,

    Section 1 of Schedule 5 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 has 30 offences to which this applies. Various sorts of killing, including corporate manslaughter, explosive and arson, lots of Class A drug offences (not just smuggling), war crimes, and, as you said, terrorist offences.

  22. Was it a “hate crime”? well it wasn’t a love crime.
    Outside of Euthanasia I can’t think of a love crime.
    There are crimes born of hate- vengeful and/or tribal, and there are crimes born of indifference (nothing personal, just business). I fear indifference more- there is a limit to the number of people a criminal can hate, but if she is indifferent to one she’s probably indifferent to all.
    Are there other possible motives? Well yes. Mr Lawrence was a man with good prospects- none of the accused could claim that. Jealousy seems a possible motive. I seem to recall reading that the Krays killed a man just to prove that they could- indifference also seems a possible motive.
    Since it is impossible for anyone to know beyond reasonable doubt what the motive was that should be left out of reckoning.
    It should be noted that had the Lawrences not launched a private prosecution the issue of double jeopardy would not arise in this case.
    Anna Raccoon is worth reading on this.

  23. SE, Thanks and no problem with the typo, it used to be shortened to Si but somehow that doesn’t seem to fit now I’m the wrong side of 50 🙁

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