Law Commission To Advise On 'Conspiring To Defeat Justice'

  • Tony Ryall

Justice Minister, Tony Ryall, has asked the Law Commission to advise the Government on the offence of conspiring to defeat justice in cases where corrupt or fabricated evidence is used to help acquit people of very serious crimes.

"The issue arises because of the disparity between the maximum penalty for conspiring to defeat justice (7 years imprisonment) and the maximum penalty for the most serious crimes such as rape or murder," said Mr Ryall.

"Combined with the common law rule against double jeopardy - that is that someone can not be tried for the same offence twice" this disparity potentially creates an incentive for the accused to try to corrupt witness, commit perjury or fabricate evidence.

"Under present law someone can not be retried once acquitted, even if it later comes to light that fabricated or corrupted evidence was germane to that acquittal.

"While there is no evidence that this situation occurs frequently, I have been advised that it has occurred on at least one occasion in the past.

"I view such matters extremely seriously, and have asked the Law Commission to turn their attention to the issue, and advise me of possible options for resolving the problem.

"Given the nature of the issue I have not restricted the Commission to a fixed deadline," concluded Mr Ryall.