London: An Indian-origin serial rapist, sentenced to life imprisonment by a British court, has set a legal precedent in the UK regarding the retrial of cases where the accused had previously been acquitted.
Harbinder Khatkar was found guilty of 18 offences, including five rapes, by Derby Crown Court yesterday. The judge ordered that he should serve at least 14 years in prison before he can be considered for parole.
The 37-year-old had been cleared of four offences last year but was tried again after being arrested for new attacks.
This is the first time that fresh charges secured permission for a new trial and the UK`s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) believes it could help other victims in future.
"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," said Steve Chappell, chief crown prosecutor for CPS East Midlands.
Prosecutors found that the way Khatkar attacked women after his acquittal was similar to allegations he had previously faced.
A court had cleared Khatkar 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.
The CPS said the earlier attack had all the "hallmarks" of Khatkar`s later offences.
A 2005 change to "double jeopardy" laws enabled a retrial after an acquittal if "new and compelling" evidence emerged.
New legislation in April 2005 saw the scrapping of the 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, said Khatkar`s case was a "really significant development" that demonstrated the importance of circumstantial evidence.