Tees

Tees campaign's role in Stephen Lawrence killing re-trial

Ann Ming outside the Old Bailey
Image caption October 2006: Ann Ming thanked her supporters outside the court

One of the men to stand trial charged with the murder of Stephen Lawrence will appear in court due, in part, to a woman from Teesside.

Gary Dobson has already been tried and acquitted of Stephen Lawrence's murder.

But he will be back in court after the "double jeopardy law", which prevented a person bring tried twice for the same crime, was scrapped following years of campaigning by Ann Ming.

Mrs Ming's daughter Julie Hogg was killed by a man who had already been acquitted of her murder when two juries failed to reach a verdict.

Ms Hogg was murdered in 1989 before, two years' later, Billy Dunlop, 43, was cleared of killing her.

Later however, while serving time for assault, Dunlop confessed to a prison officer that he had actually killed Julie.

The law at the time prevented a second trial following an acquittal and Dunlop was instead convicted of lying in court and sentenced to six years for perjury.

Julie's mother Ann, remembers feeling helpless. "We just felt in a terrible state of limbo, because we'd got no justice and no conviction," she said.

A long campaign

Ann refused to accept an 800-year-old law should mean her daughter's killer could not be retried for her murder and began a campaign to change the law.

Image caption Julie Hogg's body was hidden behind a bath panel

"In this day and age, if somebody can confess in a court of law that they've been responsible for a killing and only be charged and sentenced for perjury, because of an 800 year old law? That didn't make sense."

Ex-Supt Mark Braithwaite, now retired from Cleveland Police, was involved in the case throughout and says he is not surprised a woman as determined as Mrs Ming was eventually successful in changing the law.

"She campaigned to home secretaries, ministers, the Law Commission, you name it," he said. "Anybody she thought could influence the direction of the campaign, she championed the cause."

In April 2005, following more than a decade of political pressure by Mrs Ming, her husband Charlie and with the support of local MP Frank Cook, the law was changed.

Today, a person can be tried a second time for the same offence, if there is "new and compelling evidence".

In the case of the re-trial there is still the same presumption a defendant is innocent unless proved guilty.

And, in October 2006 at the Old Bailey, Dunlop became the first person in eight centuries to be convicted in a UK court of a crime of which he had previously been acquitted.

He was told he must serve a minimum of 17 years in prison after pleading guilty to Julie's murder.

After the conviction

One of the arguments against the repeal of the "double jeopardy law" was the chance police would initially take cases to trial without sufficient evidence, knowing they would get a second chance later.

Image caption Billy Dunlop was finally sentenced after 17 years

Some were also concerned this would lead to detectives harassing a prime suspect with trial after trial.

But Mr Braithwaite says the way the change to the law was structured, second trials are, in reality, few and far between.

"There was lots of consideration through Parliament, in the House of Lords, by the Law Commission, before the determination was made, first of all to change the legislation and secondly, once that determination had been made, to apply that retrospectively to historic cases," he said.

But Ann says, for the families of those victims who do get a second trial, whatever the verdict, it can bring much needed relief from doubt.

"Over the years I have met families all around the country ... and we all felt the same, like you're in a state of limbo and it's all about closure," she said.

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