Innocent Until Proven Guilty What It Really Means

Innocent until proven guilty; a legal principle

The phrase, innocent until proven guilty, is a widely misunderstood legal phrase. It is a principle of law, a legal instrument that should ensure fair trials. The police, the lawyers and judges should regard the accused as innocent and put the evidence to the test.

Scales of Justice
© Marco Uliana – Fotolia.com

It is the prosecution and investigators who are on trial because they should never present a case to court until they have gathered irrefutable evidence. Irrefutable that is to the best of their knowledge. It is the prosecution who has to prove guilt and not the accused to prove innocence.

So why do I say it is widely misunderstood? It is widely misunderstood and often deliberately ‘misunderstood’, by critics of the media (particularly new media), barrack-room lawyers and criminal apologists. It constantly comes up in criticism of articles on this blog, but this blog is not a court of law, this blog is not part of the prosecution, this blog investigates and reports facts. Sometimes, as the Editor, I may give my opinion, but my opinion is expressed mainly in the comments, not the articles.

Innocent until proven guilty; a few examples

I will now illustrate this argument with a few examples, and for simplicity, I will continue to make the suspects masculine.

Imagine waking up at 3 am, and there is a stranger in your bedroom. He is putting your valuables into a sack. You tackle him and knock him out and call the police. Is he a burglar or is he not a burglar? Yes of course he is!

The second scenario; a neighbour enters your home and rapes your wife. You are not there, but she recognises him and tells you who it was. Your wife is an honest woman and does not tell lies. The police are called and make an arrest. Is your neighbour innocent or guilty? GUILTY! You know the answers

The answer to both those scenarios is guilty! You see the legal principle of innocent until proven guilty is not fact, it is a presumption. The victims know who the guilty are, witnesses also know who is guilty, and the perpetrator knows he is guilty.

The accused must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, so that the investigators and prosecutors gather evidence and present that evidence to the court and prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is indeed guilty of the offence. That is the basis of a fair trial.

The presumption of innocence does apply to news reporting as well of course. However, what if a witness writes the report or a video shows the incident in indisputable detail? What if documents are available that proves guilt? Is it wrong in those circumstances to report the accused as guilty? I don’t think so, providing that the report does not prejudice the fairness of the trial.

How many innocents who could have been saved?

If the Internet had been available 50-years ago, many victims of Jimmy Savile, the MP Cyril Smith, ex-Prime Minister Edward Heath and ‘Lord’ Alistair McAlpine would have been saved from their abuse. This is why I interpret the rules less strictly than the mainstream media (MSM), they can’t publish a word without a lawyer passes it. Except, of course, they are willing to overstep the mark when hacking a dead girl’s mobile phone.

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