PhD ceremony: Ms. W.F. van Hattum, 16.15 uur, Aula Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Dissertation: Non bis in idem. De ontwikkeling van een beginsel
Promotor(s): prof. G. Knigge, prof. B.H. Stolte
The double jeopardy rule forbids a second prosecution for the same offence. The rule is applicable after irrevocable judgments: condemnations as well as acquittals. If a conviction is subsequently found to be wrong, it is annulled. But what if an irrevocable acquittal seems to be based on a judicial error? Is the acquitted person to be prosecuted again? How can his freedom and the public safety both be sufficiently guaranteed? These questions have been occupying the minds of many criminal lawyers during the ages.
In the nineteenth century the balance between individual freedom and public safety was found at last in the modern public criminal procedure, with inter alia the possibility of suspending prosecution pending fresh evidence. In this criminal procedure the absolute authority of the irrevocable verdict of acquittal was laid down by statute. The classic principle non bis in idem acquired the status of a fundamental right.
In the last ten years calls have been made for the possibility of reopening definitely closed acquittals. The argument is founded on developments in the sphere of forensic evidence, specifically in the field of DNA research. Nordrhein-Westfalen in 2007 and The Netherlands in 2009 put proposals forward to change the law. Van Hattum’s research on the developments of the rule non bis in idem on the European continent from the cradle till modern times makes it possible to consider these proposals in historical and comparative law perspectives.
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