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Killer jailed under double jeopardy law change gets parole hearing

Killer jailed under double jeopardy law change gets parole hearing 2

A brutal killer who made legal history as the first to be imprisoned under changes to the double jeopardy law for sexually assaulting and murdering his girlfriend could be freed after being granted a parole hearing.

Billy Dunlop, now 58, murdered Julie Hogg in 1989 but he was not convicted of the offence until 2006. He was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum tariff of 17 years.

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That sentence came after a relentless campaign by Julie’s mother, Ann Ming, to change the ancient ‘double jeopardy’ rule and bring Dunlop to justice. 

Until 2005, the 800-year-old law meant a person could not be charged twice for the same crime.

Ann was the first person to find her daughter’s body – hidden under the bath in her flat.

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Billy Dunlop

Julie Hogg

Billy Dunlop (left), now 58, murdered Julie Hogg (right) in 1989 but he was not convicted of the offence until 2006

Dunlop had already escaped justice for Ann’s murder twice after juries could not agree a verdict.

After eventually pleading guilty at the Old Bailey in 2006, aged 43, he was sentenced to life. He is eligible for parole in October 2023.

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Dunlop was the first killer to be caged under the changes to double jeopardy.

Since Ann’s campaign, the new law has been used to secure 13 convictions, including Stephen Lawrence’s killers.

What is double jeopardy and why was the law changed? 

Double jeopardy is the 800-year-old principle that you can’t go on trial for the same crime more than once.

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Its purpose was to protect the innocent against judicial tyranny that could see them convicted arbitrarily, even after being found not guilty by a jury.

In 2005, the Labour government repealed the law after a number of campaigns, which persuaded senior judges and legal figures that a more nuanced approach was needed to deal with complex cases.

One of these was a campaign by the family of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993.

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Five suspects were charged but not convicted after an initial investigation.

In 1999, a public inquiry led by Sir William Macpherson concluded that Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist.

As a result he recommended double jeopardy be repealed in murder cases where extraordinary evidence later emerges.

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The law came into effect in 2005, and since then retrials have been allowed in cases where ‘new, compelling, reliable and substantial evidence’ has comes to light. 

A spokesman for the Parole Board said: ‘We can confirm the parole review of William Dunlop has been referred to the Parole Board by the Secretary of State for Justice and is following standard processes. A hearing is expected to take place at the end of May.

‘Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.

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‘A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.

‘Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead up to an oral hearing. Evidence from witnesses including probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements are then given at the hearing.

‘The prisoner and witnesses are then questioned at length during the hearing which often lasts a full day or more. Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.’

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Julie, 22, went missing from her home in Billingham, County Durham, on November 16, 1989.

Despite police searching her house, it was her own mother, Ann Ming who found her body behind a bath panel at her home ten weeks later. 

Speaking in October 2019, she told them of the stench that filled the flat.

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She said ‘I worked in operating theatres as a nurse and I had a horrible feeling.’

Ann went into the bathroom where she noticed the bath panel was loose. She pulled it away, revealing a horrifying sight. There, hidden under the bath was Julie’s naked body. 

‘It was a living nightmare,’ she said.

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Local labourer Dunlop was charged with murder but two juries failed to reach a verdict on the case and he was set free.

Dunlop, who had a history of violent assaults, had been at a stag-do and on the way home called in to see a friend who lived next door to Julie.

Despite 'bragging' about her death, Billy was not sent to prison as an 800-year-old law prevented him from being re-tried after being found not guilty

Despite ‘bragging’ about her death, Billy was not sent to prison as an 800-year-old law prevented him from being re-tried after being found not guilty

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When he left, he noticed Julie’s light was on and told his friend he planned to call in and say hello. Dunlop was the last person to see Julie alive.

The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court in May 1991. The jury failed to reach a verdict, so the judge ordered a retrial. Once again, they were unable to reach a verdict and Billy Dunlop was acquitted.

In in 1997, nine years after Julie’s murder, he was sentenced to seven years for grievous bodily harm after stabbing his ex-girlfriend with a carving fork and beating up her lover.

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He continued to threaten his ex from prison, sending her a letter saying that when he got out, he’d do what he’d done to Julie – and kill her.

His ex took the letter to the police, but as Dunlop had been acquitted, their hands were tied. This was because of an 800-year-old law – the double jeopardy law – which states a person cannot be tried again once acquitted.

Julie's mother, Ann Ming, has led a long campaign to change the ancient ‘double jeopardy’ rule and bring Dunlop to justice

Julie’s mother, Ann Ming, has led a long campaign to change the ancient ‘double jeopardy’ rule and bring Dunlop to justice 

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The best police could hope for was to convict him of lying under oath. In 1999, a prison officer secretly recorded Dunlop saying when he called round to Julie’s house, he’d told her about a fight he’d been in.

She’d nervously laughed, which annoyed him, so he strangled her. Dunlop was convicted of perjury but sentenced to only six years.

Exasperated, Ann led a relentless campaign that ended with the law change in 2006.

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In 2019, Dunlop lost a bid to be moved to a cushy open prison for the remainder of his sentence. The Parole Board could recommend his move to an open prison – or that he be released.

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