by Katy Docherty and David Walsh
The families of the World’s End murder victims are set to have their hopes dashed when the Double Jeopardy Bill goes before Holyrood. The current law prevents a person from standing trial for the same crime twice but will be scrapped in a session of the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.
The Double Jeopardy Bill will now allow a retrial if evidence arises of the acquitted person admitting guilt or new DNA evidence comes to light to strengthen the case against the accused. The conditions of the Bill have been restricted to murder, rape, culpable homicide and serious sexual offences cases.
Criminal defence lawyer John Scott is skeptical of the plans: ‘There isn’t really any evidence which is absolutely conclusive of guilt. It’s not as if DNA evidence will tell you who did it. DNA evidence is far more likely to tell you who didn’t do it and beyond that, it can tell you who might have done it.
‘But you still need something else beyond DNA evidence in order to be able to convict.’
The repealing of the law may well be too late for the families of 17 year-old Helen Scott and Christine Eadie who were murdered in October 1977. Angus Sinclair was accused of their murders but was cleared of the crime when the case was dismissed in 2007 due to insufficient evidence. He can now only be retried for the murders if he admits guilt under the new Bill.
Sinclair was accused of attacking and killing the two young girls thirty-four years ago. They were last seen at the World’s End pub in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, and their bodies were discovered in East Lothian.
The acquittal of the accused Sinclair in the World’s End case had initially launched calls for a change in the law.
‘The World’s End case was a trial and front by a judge in the High Court and at the end of the prosecution case, the judge yelled that there was no case to answer. And as a result of that, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice said he wanted the law to be looked at again so that a further prosecution would be possible,’ said Scott.
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has been criticised for giving the girls’ families false hope. Robert Brown MSP, Lib Dem spokesman on Justice and Civil liberties said: ‘I think he made some careless statements to be honest on that one because at the end of the day, the issue with the World’s End trial really related to the nature of the evidence that came forward. Under these new conditions, the exception doesn’t apply if the Crown has had evidence or should have had evidence and didn’t make use of it.’