An accused who has been acquitted after a criminal trial may have to go through the ordeal a second time, after the Law Reform Commission yesterday proposed relaxing the legal principle of double jeopardy in exceptional circumstances. A commission subcommittee specialising in double jeopardy yesterday launched a consultation on reforming the rule on double jeopardy, to run until May 31, while also seeking opinions on its proposal. Under the existing rule, a person who has been acquitted or convicted after trial will be spared any further prosecution for the same offence. The rule stems from the notion that an accused should be granted certainty and closure in a trial, and should be allowed to move on with a normal life if acquitted, or face appropriate punishment if convicted. The subcommittee said it was merely advocating minimal relaxation of the rule, and not its abolition. But sub-committee chairman Paul Shieh Wing-tai SC said it was time to take a new look at the principle. 'The existing rule provides certainty for the individual who has been tried, but it is unsatisfactory from the community's point of view when it allows a person to escape justice and punishment when new and compelling evidence pointing to his guilt has emerged subsequent to the acquittal,' he said. Such situations may arise when, for instance, DNA evidence is uncovered, or where an individual admits his guilt after acquittal, Shieh said. Under their proposals, the Court of Appeal would be empowered to quash an acquittal and order a retrial where there is 'fresh and compelling evidence' against someone acquitted, or when the acquittal was 'tainted' because of interference with witnesses or the trial proceedings.