WHILE justice is reached in the end, the road to it can rarely have been so rough, misdirected and, at times, seemingly impassable as in the case of Surjit Singh Chhokar.

Mr Chhokar was stabbed to death in 1998. It has taken the long years since for his family to see justice done and tribute must be paid to them for their courage and forbearance. They have suffered agonies and frustrations that no family should have to endure. It is particularly poignant that Surjit’s father, Darshan, did not live to see his son’s killer convicted.

The killer thought he had got away with the “perfect murder”. Ironically, this grim boast was Ronnie Coulter’s undoing as, with changes to the double jeopardy law allowing an accused person to be tried for the same offence twice, it provided grounds for bringing him to trial once more and having him convicted at last. The 18 years from that dire November night in the village of Overtown, North Lanarkshire, have seen the country’s most senior legal figures accusing colleagues of being ill-informed; campaigners complaining of a travesty of justice; two independent inquiries; three High Court trials; a catalogue of calamitous mistakes; and evidence of institutional racism in the police and prosecution service.

Failed for so long, the family might have been forgiven for losing faith, though in the end these same agencies obtained justice, and those who steadfastly did their duty in pursuing it are to be commended, as is the Chhokar family’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar.

This is only the second time in Scottish legal history that an accused person has been tried for the same crime. And, while each case must be judged on its merits, the reform of the double jeopardy law in 2011 appears to have been judicious. Certainly, yesterday was a good day for justice. The pity is that it was preceded by 18 years of injustice.