The government has responded to a succession of cases of police incompetence which have seen innocent people jailed and others walk free-by giving more power to the police! This comes just as yet another case-that of Peter Fell-of someone being jailed for a crime they could not possibly have committed came to light. The Law Commission wants to change the 'double jeopardy' rule, to allow someone acquitted of murder to be tried again.
New Labour may implement this change if it is re-elected. Getting rid of double jeopardy was one of the recommendations from the Macpherson report into the death of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The Lawrence family and campaigners were furious that the trial of the five murder suspects in Stephen's death was wrecked by police racism and incompetence.
Everyone fighting for justice for the Lawrence family would like to see his murderers brought to justice and put behind bars. But this should not mean giving extra powers to the police and courts. They are not champions of justice for black people and the poor. It would mean officers could harass people who had been proven innocent of a crime and demand that they repeatedly stand trial. That's why Lawrence family solicitor Imran Khan was right this week to oppose the plan to scrap double jeopardy.