The federal Minister of Justice has ordered a new trial for former judge Jacques Delisle. Mr. Delisle was convicted 9 years ago of killing his wife and had exhausted all appeals. When does the federal Minister of Justice order a new trial and what happens next?
When can someone who has been convicted get a new trial?
Someone who believes that they have been wrongfully convicted can ask the federal Minister of Justice to review their case. The Minister has the power to review convictions to protect against “miscarriages of justice”, for example, to avoid having an innocent person spend their life in jail for a crime they did not commit.
If the Minister believes that there is a reasonable chance that there has been a miscarriage of justice, they can order a new trial. To convince the federal Minister of Justice, the convicted person must:
- have exhausted all appeals
- show new evidence that was not considered at trial
- show that the new evidence is credible and would have had an impact on the outcome of the original trial
What happens if the Minister believes that has been a miscarriage of justice?
The Minister of Justice will order a new trial so that this new evidence can be examined by a court. This does not mean that the convicted person has been declared innocent. However, they do regain the presumption of innocence, so the “convicted” becomes the “accused”. Once the Minister orders a new trial, the prosecution decides what happens next. If a new trial is held, it does not necessarily mean that the accused will be acquitted.
In some cases, the prosecution will decide to withdraw the charges. For example, in 2014, Leighton Hay had his charges dropped by the prosecution after new forensic evidence convinced the Minister to order a new trial.
In other cases, the prosecution will go ahead with a new trial so that the new evidence can be considered. In 2007, Steven Truscott was acquitted after advances in medical knowledge and problems with an autopsy came to light.
Why did the Minister order a new trial for Mr. Delisle?
The federal Minister of Justice ordered a new trial for Mr. Delisle because experts produced new reports showing that the prosecution’s theory at trial was based on flawed forensic evidence. Had these reports been known at trial, the Minister believed that there was a reasonable chance that Mr. Delisle would not have been convicted.
The prosecution has not announced whether it intends to hold a new trial for Mr. Delisle. In the meantime, he has been released from prison on bail.
Criminal Law Explained
For more information about criminal trials, see our text “How Criminal Trials Work”.