[What follows is taken from a profile in today’s edition of The Scotsman of Lesley Thomson, Solicitor General for Scotland:]
The Scottish Government’s Double Jeopardy Act 2011 means prosecutors can try people twice if significant new evidence came to light. One case is expected to reach court by the end of 2012, but the Crown Office will not say which.
“What happened in November last year was the launch of the cold case unit and the homicide database,” says Thomson. “That was partly for cold cases but also with an eye towards what was happening in regards to double jeopardy. That was always going to contain double jeopardy as well. At that time, working with police, it was decided to prioritise a group of cases without naming them.”
However, some cases being re-examined are known. The Crown Office has confirmed it has asked police to reinvestigate the murders of Surjit Singh Chhokar, Amanda Duffy and World’s End victims Christine Eadie and Helen Scott.
The Lockerbie investigation has also been linked to double jeopardy, although Ms Thomson will not be drawn on this as it is a live investigation.
If the Crown seeks to bring charges against Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah it will need to do so under double jeopardy, because he has already faced one trial where he was found not guilty and acquitted of 270 counts of murder in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.
However, if the Crown Office goes after other individuals, who have not previously faced prosecution for the terrorist atrocity, they will not need to rely on double jeopardy.
What Thomson is keen to stress, however, is that the Crown Office saw double jeopardy coming and had been preparing for the legislation which was introduced in November last year.
“There was already work being done about how we go about an old investigation,” she says. “There was a lot of thinking about how we would run that in parallel with current investigations.”
[As I remarked in an earlier post on this blog: “I would be astounded if prosecutors sought to re-indict Lamin Fhimah. The Crown Office is just as aware as the rest of us are that the astonishing thing about the Zeist trial was not the acquittal of Fhimah but the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi. Any 'new evidence' that has emerged since 2001 points clearly towards the innocence of the accused Libyans rather than their guilt, as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission amongst others has pointed out.”]