BACK in early November 2003, The Northern Echo said in this very column: "It would be a fitting tribute to Julie Hogg and her family if they were among the first to see justice achieved as a result of this particular reform."

We were referring to the long-awaited abolition of the double jeopardy law.

The double jeopardy law had been written in olden days to prevent a powerful establishment from trying the same person over and over again until the 'right' result had been achieved.

But in more modern times, we concluded, there was not such a threat.

Indeed, the balance concerning the need for double jeopardy had swung against it. Each passing year brings advances in forensic science and police resources which mean there can be new, compelling evidence available that had not presented to the original trial. Surely it was in justice's best interests for that evidence to be considered at a re-trial?

No longer did the double jeopardy law prevent innocent people from becoming victims. It was instead creating victims of its own - out of people like Julie Hogg's family who it prevented from getting justice.

And so, back in November 2003, the law was repealed.

But since then, nothing. The Home Office set itself deadlines to get the new law into operation, but three of these have come and gone, and 14 months have passed. Nothing.

A law, of course, is never easily written. We understand that. But this length of delay - particularly when added to the long campaign to get double jeopardy repealed - does appear to be civil servants dragging their feet.

They do so without any apparent thought for what the families are going through. Someone like Ann Ming, Julie's mother, must be desperate for justice for her daughter and desperate for some form of closure for herself, but she must also be dreading the day when the re-trial begins and all the horrid detail is dredged back up again.

The biggest victim in all this is justice itself. It is mocked by its failure to deal satisfactorily with a huge crime. How can someone who has boasted that he has literally got away with murder remain beyond the long arm of the law?

We still believe that it would be a fitting tribute to Julie Hogg and her family if they were among the first to see justice as a result of this reform - only now we add the hope that it comes very speedily.