Bolt Burdon Kemp launch petition to change double-jeopardy law
Pressure has been mounting on the UK government to put an end to the legal loop-hole that means Bob Higgins – an ex youth coach at Southampton football club – will never again be tried for the alleged sexual abuse of six children who he was acquitted of abusing in the 1990’s. Due to the legal principle of double jeopardy I have launched a petition calling for a change to the law on double jeopardy to help apply even more pressure and evoke change. The forgotten six, who I represent, suffered child sexual abuse at the hands of Bob Higgins and have been denied justice as a result of the current law. It is our duty as a society to protect the innocent and enforce laws which support us in that aim.
As it currently stands, the law is such that an accused cannot be tried again on the same criminal charges following an acquittal unless there is both:
- new and compelling evidence and
- the crime is considered “severe” and “serious” enough to be an exception under the double jeopardy rules.
This legal technicality has caused immeasurable pain for the six accusers – whilst there is compelling new evidence in the form of convictions against 23 others who came forward in the recent trial, because child sexual abuse is not currently classed as a “serious crime” for the purposes of the double jeopardy rule, there is no way in which they can ask for Higgins to be retried for the crimes they allege that he committed against them.
This campaign is to raise awareness of this legal loophole and bring about a change to the current law for the sake of those affected. In the last two years, nearly 100 people have come forward to allege sexual abuse at the hands of Higgins and 23 of these people recently obtained guilty verdicts in their cases. The level of new and compelling evidence against Higgins would allow the original six cases to be re-tried if child sexual abuse was rightly classified as a serious crime. It is time that the cases of the original six Higgins accusers are re-opened to ensure that justice is done for our clients and for anyone else that has been affected in the same way.
The call for change has already been supported by the Victim Commissioner Vera Baird QC, the Labour MP and advocate for the prevention of child sexual abuse, Sarah Champion, along with club ambassador of Southampton Football club, Matt Le Tissier and ex-Everton and Wales goalkeeper Neville Southall. More signatures are needed to bring this campaign to the government’s attention.
I urge you to help support this petition and our campaign for the forgotten six. The IICSA findings have reconfirmed the grave repercussions which follow those affected by child sexual assault throughout their lives. Now is the time for change.
What you can do
You can sign the petition here and you can contact your local MP’s to ask them to support the petition.