Presumption Of Innocence In Criminal Justice

2448 Words10 Pages
Introduction In the administration of criminal justice, the presumption of innocence is widely identified as a fundamental human right. It tilts the scales of justice towards the favour of the defendant by compelling the prosecution to establish guilt to a high degree of certainty. However, a subsequent result is an increased probability of the guilty escaping imprisonment due to an increased difficulty to secure such a conviction. There is a clear, ever-present tension between protecting the rights of defendants and the interest of the community in convicting the guilty, in every system of criminal law, including that of the United Kingdom. Solutions to such tensions often undermine the presumption of innocence, leaving it to those in power…show more content…
In the case of Burdett, the use of presumptions in criminal law was encouraged and accepted by the judges, with Best J stating that there could not be presumptions without evidence and that there was scarcely a criminal case whereby the courts did not act upon presumptions. In civil cases, the courts practiced the general rule that the proponent of any fact was to bear the burden of proving that fact. Due to a tendency for courts to reason from civil rules of evidence to criminal rules, this lead to an application of this general rule resulting in the defendant having to prove any fact they raised as a defence. Therefore, if the defendant raised a defence, the burden of proof and the risk of non-persuasion fell upon the defendant almost…show more content…
Although the presumption is silent as to the necessary standard of proof, many interpretations see it as encompassing that of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Regarding burden of proof, there exist two types of burdens; the evidential burden and the legal (or persuasive) burden. It is crucial to distinguish between the two burdens; the evidential burden is fulfilled by establishing sufficient evidence before the court to require the fact-finder to decide an issue, whereas the legal burden is fulfilled by convincing the fact finder of the truth of a proposition to the relevant standard. Exceptions To The ‘Golden Thread’ Rule There exist three exceptions to the ‘golden thread’ rule, as noted by Viscount Sankey in his quote above. These consist of; • the defence of insanity is raised by the accused • the legal burden is expressly put upon the accused • the legal burden is impliedly put upon the accused These are known as ‘reverse onus provisons’. It is Parliament, through statutes, which shifts the burden of proof, where it is an issue of express or implied reversal. Courts have noted that reverse burdens may be imposed through either express language of a statute or through necessary

More about Presumption Of Innocence In Criminal Justice

Open Document