The situations when a case can be reopened in UK

The UK has a very complex legal system backed up by many laws. However, there are situations in which no matter how clear the law is and how correct a case is handled, mistakes or procedures can go wrong. These lead to special situations when case reopening is required. Fortunately, the UK legislation provides specific regulations under which a case can be reopened. The same legislation distinguishes between the situations a case can be reopened and appealed.

There are only a few circumstances which can lead to a UK court to reopen a case. These circumstances are all gathered under the motto of acting in the best interest of justice.

Procedures leading to case reopening in the UK

Acting in the best interest of justice is quite a broad term and implies many variables, which is why the Magistrates Court Act encompasses the situations when a case can be reopened. These are related to wrong proceedings during the trial, such as skipping one or more steps during the trial and the absence of the accused upon the magistrate dictating the sentence. Delays related to obtaining evidence or new evidence which can change the sentence can also lead to case reopening.

Acting in the best interest of justice can also imply the judge being required to consider other aspects related to the case and hearing new testimonies, which can also trigger a case reopening.

Who can order case reopening?

According to the Magistrates Court Act of 1980 is the judge who can order a case to be reopened, but only based on strong supporting evidence. Among this evidence, the judge will admit new documents, new witnesses and even proof that an error occurred during the first trial. Even if case reopening is not very common in the UK, it is the defence solicitor making such request to the court, but it is also the right of the offender to make such request, which will usually consist in a simple application.

There are also situations in which case reopening cannot be requested and these are the cases when an offender was not convicted and when he/she pleaded guilty for the crime committed.

The Criminal Justice Act of 2003 introduced the double jeopardy rule, under which an offender cannot be tried and sentenced twice for the same crime, therefore the judge must careful weigh the reopening of the case.

Case reopening is significantly simpler than an appeal because it takes less time and a simpler procedure, however, it requires more justification since it is a judge who decides if it can or cannot be reopened.