Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Presumption of Innocence

The typical citizen is obliged to be honest and upstanding, and has a corresponding right to be presumed to be so. So in law, a person is deemed to be innocent until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that he or she is not.

So if you wish to accuse someone of a crime, it is up to you to prove your case beyond reasonable doubt. This is not always easy, and a lack of evidence or a lack of witnesses (or other things) can make it impossible.

Defending yourself against a criminal charge is stressful; a lot is at stake, and mistakes can be made. Accusing a person of a crime whilst knowing the accusation to be false, and lying in court are both frowned upon. In France, an accusation known to be false is a "dénonciation calomnieuse" and making one is a crime.

It doesn't take a brain the size of a planet, nor a Masters' Degree in logic to realise that failure to prove your case beyond reasonable doubt against a person who is presumed to be innocent, does not automatically mean that your accusation was false, or known to be false. And yet this illogic was written into French law: if you failed to prove your case, you were automatically guilty of "dénonciation calomnieuse".

It took a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on 30 June this year to correct this error on the basis that it overturned the presumption of innocence. I think that the ECHR is a Good Thing.

1 comment:

the fly in the web said...

I wonder if DSK's French lawyers have caught up on this yet?
Or are they hoping that French courts will, as usual, ignore the ruling until forced into submission some years down the line?

Just look at the saga about defence lawyers having access to the whole dossier on their client...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...