Suspect may face murder retrial after legal change

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The Independent Online

A man who allegedly confessed to killing his girlfriend in 1989 may be the first person to face re-trial for murder after the new "double jeopardy" law comes into effect on Monday.

A man who allegedly confessed to killing his girlfriend in 1989 may be the first person to face retrial for murder after the new "double jeopardy" law comes into effect on Monday.

Police are to re-examine the murder of Julie Hogg, 22, a pizza delivery worker who was the victim of a sex attack at her home in Billingham, Teeside, in November 1989.

Her naked and mutilated body was found hidden behind her bath by her mother, Ann Ming, three months after the attack. Mrs Ming has long campaigned for a change in the law to allow those acquitted to be brought back to trial if there is sufficient fresh evidence.

Ms Hogg's boyfriend Billy Dunlop was tried for her murder but acquitted after the jury failed to reach a verdict on two separate occasions. Police and the victim's family always believed in Dunlop's guilt, although he could never be tried for murder again.

Under measures in the Criminal Justice Act, which come into force on Monday, the double jeopardy law ­ which dates back to the Middle Ages ­ will be amended so that suspects who were acquitted at trial can be brought to court again.

While serving a seven-year sentence for a serious assault on another woman, Dunlop allegedly confessed to a prison officer that he had killed Julie.

Mrs Ming welcomed the change in the law saying: "This could mean justice for victims, many of whom will tell you that they, not the perpetrators, do the life sentences in this country."

Earlier this week Cleveland's chief prosecutor, Martin Goldman, said there was a danger of the law jeopardising confidence in the justice system.

He said: "I don't envisage a lot of retrials. It's very rare we would do that because we want the certainty that when someone is tried for a criminal offence and found not guilty then that is the finality of it.

"Otherwise we never know where we are, and the public can never know if someone is guilty or not. Also, the defendants themselves can't get on with their lives."

Cleveland Police charged Dunlop with two counts of perjury in connection with the false evidence he had given under oath at the two trials.

In 2000, he was jailed for six years, consecutive to the jail term he was already serving for a different offence.

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said yesterday: "We will re-examine the case in line with new legislation."

A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service added: "The law will change from 4 April to allow, in special circumstances, the retrial of defendants who have previously been acquitted of an offence after trial. Any case which fits within those circumstances, requires the consent of the chief crown prosecutor, the director of public prosecutions and the Court of Appeal before any retrial can take place.

"Any such cases will be reviewed extremely carefully."