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The inquest into the death of Matthew Leveson took yet another dramatic turn, long after it seemed that Mr Leveson’s family was never to find out the truth.
Matthew Leveson disappeared in 2007. His family and police immediately suspected that his de facto partner, Michael Atkins, had killed him. He has not been heard from since, and a body has never been found.
Atkins was tried and acquitted of the murder in 2009. Leveson’s family have, since then, campaigned long and hard for an inquest into Leveson’s death, in the hope that they might finally be able to give their son a proper burial.
Over the objection of Atkins, an inquest has been held this year. Atkins was required, against his wishes, to give evidence at the inquest, and once again denied having anything to do with Leveson’s death. His lawyers went all the way to the Supreme Court to try and stop the inquest happening.
Despite those efforts, he was forced to give evidence, and denied having anything to do with Leveson’s death, even going so far as to suggest he might not be dead at all but instead living overseas.
What happened next surprised everyone who had been following the proceedings.
The media breathlessly reported that Atkins had led Police to the spot where Leveson’s body could be found. Police were searching the area and had declared a crime scene.
Given that Atkins has been previously acquitted of murder, the ordinary rule is that he cannot be retried. Recent changes to the law mean that he can be retried if “fresh and compelling” evidence emerges, and a court considers it to be in the interests of justice for that person to be retried.
According to the Attorney General. Atkins was granted an immunity from prosecution for perjury and/or contempt of court for lying to the inquest.
What is unclear is whether we can now expect Atkins to be retried for murder. It would seem that Atkins taking Police to the site of Leveson’s body would be exactly the kind of fresh and compelling evidence that the legislature had in mind when they brought in the power to retry Atkins.
It is not clear that Atkins has any protection against such a retrial. Whether that retrial for murder is to happen is something we are just going to have to wait to find out.
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