Autrefois Convict and Autrefois Acquit in Ghanaian Criminal Jurisprudence: A Search for Relevance in the 21st Century

Daniel Korang


The rule against double jeopardy, otherwise known as autrefois convict or autrefois acquit, has traditionally been thought of as a hallowed canon of the common law, a golden rule which sits at the heart of all English common law systems. Double jeopardy is revered as a principle vital to the protection of personal freedom. It is claimed that the rule underpins the legitimacy of the legal system because it recognises the incontrovertibility of verdicts, which are transformed, via the declared judgment, into a record of a ‘higher nature‘.[1] At common law, the principle against double jeopardy was expressed by the four pleas in bar, autrefois acquit, autrefois convict, autrefois attaint and former pardon. However, given that the former two pleas in bar are most relevant to contemporary criminal procedure, they will be the focus of this article.

[1] Davern v Messel (1983) 155 CLR 21, 62 (Murphy J).

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