Victims 'could benefit' from Khatkar retrial decision

Harbinder Khatkar
Image caption Prosecutors argued the first attack had the "hallmarks" of Khatkar's later offences

Victims of crime could benefit from a "landmark" case which saw a man jailed for a series of sex assaults and rape, the Crown Prosecution Service has said.

Harbinder Khatkar, 37, from Derby, had been cleared of four of the offences last year but was tried again after being arrested for new attacks.

A 2005 change to "double jeopardy" laws enabled a retrial after an acquittal if "new and compelling" evidence emerged.

It is the first time fresh charges secured permission for a new trial.

Khatkar was found guilty of 18 offences, including five rapes, on Wednesday.

On Friday, a judge jailed Khatkar for life and ordered that he serve at least 14 years in prison before he can be considered for parole.

A court had cleared him of repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting a woman in Derby in December 2011 but six weeks later he attacked six other women in one night, raping two of them.

'Interests of justice'

Following his arrest, the CPS persuaded the Court of Appeal to overturn the acquittals in the earlier case and to order a retrial on the basis that the new charges indicated a "very similar pattern of behaviour", pointing to new and compelling evidence of guilt.

The CPS said the earlier attack had all the "hallmarks" of Khatkar's later offences.

It is the 13th time prosecutors have applied to quash an acquittal under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 since the legislation came into force in April 2005.

The change saw the scrapping of the so-called double jeopardy law in England and Wales, which had prevented people being tried for the same crime twice for more than 800 years.

The quashing of acquittals in the past has taken place because of fresh DNA evidence coming to light, or following a confession made by a suspect.

The principal legal adviser at the CPS, Alison Levitt QC, said the Derby case was a "really significant development" which demonstrated the importance of circumstantial evidence.

Steve Chappell, chief crown prosecutor for CPS East Midlands, said the way Khatkar attacked the women after the acquittal "was so similar to the allegations he had previously faced".

He added: "We asked the Court of Appeal to consider whether he should be retried for his original offences on the basis that his subsequent offending provided new and compelling evidence and it was in the interests of justice for the case to be retried by a jury."

Other cases in which acquittals have been overturned include that of Gary Dobson and David Norris - jailed in 2012 after being found guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence at a London bus stop in 1993 - and Billy Dunlop, who was found guilty in 2006 of the 1989 murder of his former girlfriend, Julie Hogg, from Teesside.

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