Double jeopardy

SafeWork NSW v BOC Limited [2020] NSWCA 306

BOC was acquitted of offences after installing gas lines to a hospital operating theatre.  Nitrous oxide lines were wrongly labelled as ‘oxygen’.  One baby died and another suffered brain damage.  SafeWork sought review of the acquittal after final orders were made.  BOC pleaded ‘double jeopardy’ – that is, they could not be ‘vexed’ again for the same offence6.

Basten JA said the rule against double jeopardy is deeply ingrained and operates as a principle of construction in criminal appeal statutes.  The statute here also cast doubt on the very idea that, ‘lurking in the unexplored interstices’ of jurisdiction, there exists some general right to review acquittals.

This principle is from Episode 68 of interpretation NOW!


6 Keepers (1890) 25 QBD 357 (at 360), Duncan (1881) 7 QBD 198 (at 199).