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Reinstatement of the principle of presumption of innocence

Comment 9th July 2010

In recent years, especially during the 13 years of the last government, more and more new laws and amendments to existing legislation have come onto the statute book in a manner which requires an individual charged with, or even suspected of, committing an offence, having to prove his or her innocence, rather than retaining the fundamental right to be presumed to be innocent until such time as the reverse can be proven.

Why does this matter?

It is important because it has until recently been a fundamental human right of an individual to be presumed to be innocent until proof of guilt can be demonstrated. It is too easy for a powerful individual or organisation to harass someone, and indeed to ruin another persons' life, by simply making an accusation and dragging someone into a court where substantial costs then arise, which most of us could not afford. The Law should be framed in such a way as to require than any accuser be required to prove an accused person's guilt, and in the event of such proof not being achieved, the accuser should also be required to pay all costs arising out of the original accusation, INCLUDING THE DEFENDANT'S COSTS.  Another way in which the presumption of guilt rather than innocence has entered our lives is via the dreadful Criminal Records Bureau checks system, whereby perfectly decent and law-abiding people now have to pay substantial sums in order to have themselves cleared of any criminal history before they can do a myriad of jobs, particularly those involving interaction with children and vulnerable individuals. This demonstrably unfair and wasteful requirement clearly places the onus on the individual seeking to work in a variety of roles, often as unpaid volunteers, to spend considerable sums of money and to fill in lengthy forms laden with absurd questions and demands for irrelevant information, simply to demonstrate that he/she is not a criminal. It should be a fundamental right for us all to be able to go about our legitimate business without having to first prove that we are upstanding members of our communities…. if anyone has reason to doubt that another person is not just that, then the doubter can initiate appropriate checks to support (or eliminate) such doubt.

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