The Law Of Double Jeopardy And Its Exceptions (Part 1)

Deborah Warrie

Deborah Warrie

Now before we begin this interesting and ambiguous legal series, let me start with a fictional story, so you get a full picture of what the principle of Double Jeopardy is all about.

So Anna and Alex are professional swindlers, i.e they swindle people out of their hard earned money, through ponzi schemes and gambling. So this fateful day, Alex and Anna invited one of their victims to a beach in a bid to deceive Him, and lure him into transferring some of His cryptocurrencies to their wallet. During the process of negotiation, an argument ensued and the victim started walking away yelling at Alex and Anna “you are scammers I will report you to the authorities”

On hearing this, Alex immediately runs the victim over with His car, while Anna dragged the body of the victim into the sea. Unknown to them. A tourist who was at the other side of the beach that day, filmed them and reported the murder, to the Police and they were sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

However, while they were serving their sentence it was discovered that the victim didn’t die,but was in a coma and recuperating. Ironically, during the period Anna & Alex were serving their sentence.

After the completion of their sentence and release, the victim sued Anna and Alex for fraud, attempted murder,misrepresentation amongst others. The lawyer to Anna and Alex pleaded that the principle of Double Jeopardy was applicable to Clients as they had served their sentence.

The above story is quite dicey isn’t it? Now this is where the principle of Double Jeopardy comes in and I will address it bit by bit in this series. So first what is Double Jeopardy?

Double jeopardy is a procedural defense (primarily in common law jurisdictions) that prevents an accused person from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges following an acquittal in the same jurisdiction. Under the Nigerian Legal System, Section 36 (9) of the 1999 Constitution provides thus “ No person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court.”

Availability of the law of double jeopardy, as a legal defense

If a double-jeopardy issue is raised, evidence will be placed before the court, which will typically rule as a preliminary matter whether the plea is substantiated; if it is, the projected trial will be prevented from proceeding. The legal defense avails an accused if the following is established:

  1. The accused must have been earlier tried by a competent Court of law. The other factors and follow up of our story will be carefully addressed, in the next edition of this series. Stay tuned and keep your minds open to learn.


To be continued….

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