The Director of Public Prosecutions is to be given new powers to seek a fresh trial
The move is seen as a vital new weapon in the armoury of the prosecution,
The new powers for the DPP are included in a package of legislative measures that have now been approved by the Cabinet.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern last night announced that he had been given clearance to press ahead with the package, which, he said, contained far-reaching reforms and groundbreaking proposals. They will be contained in the Criminal Procedures Bill, which will be published early in the New Year.
The DPP will also have the power to appeal against an acquittal and seek a new trial where he believes the acquittal was due to an error in law by the trial judge.
The Bill will include another measure, announced earlier this year by the minister, to eliminate the ‘double jeopardy’ rule.
Other significant proposals include:
Reform of the law on character evidence to enable the prosecution to respond where, during the trial, unwarranted and vexatious imputations are made against the character of deceased or incapacitated victims or witnesses.
Mr Ahern said last night that the Government’s decision underlined its ambition to broaden the participation of victims in the criminal process.
“The legislation will not only give them a voice through the use of victim impact statements. It will also provide for the vigorous pursuit of justice on behalf of victims,” the minister added.
Mr Ahern said
“confidence will be eroded if we do not respond to changes in society, in technology and to new patterns of crime.”