Why there is a presumption of innocence



The presumption of innocence in the Criminal Procedure is often described by the phrase “innocence until proven guilty” and is an ancient belief in our judicial system. Like many legal principles, it has its origins in the Christian values ​​of justice and justice.

Perhaps the first iteration of this principle was expressed in a digest of Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. “The evidence lies in the claimant, not the denial.” In common law, perhaps the best explanation is this of the English law scholar Sir William Blackstone’s “British Law Explanation” published between 1765 and 1770. It’s in a very famous quote. Innocent suffering. “

In Australia Federal Attorney General’s Website The presumption explains that the prosecution is responsible for proving the prosecution and guarantees that guilt cannot be presumed until the prosecution is proved beyond reasonable doubt. however, Rule of Law Education CenterThis principle applies in Australia to the assertions made, unless the author of the assertion proves that the assertion is correct, and requires that the person being the subject of the assertion be presumed to be innocent. Has a widely understood meaning. In other words, the subject of the allegation has the right to a fair trial.

Unfortunately, the media these days have generally ignored the idea of ​​presumption of innocence. The story of Christian Porter Last year was one of the most annoying examples these days. But perhaps the worst is with Cardinal George Pell, who was previously accused by some media, some politicians, and the wider community, as well as during trials of sexual abuse and subsequent proceedings. It was a relationship.

As John Howard wrote in the preface to Gerald Henderson’s book Cardinal Pell, The Sin of the Media and the Sin of the Group, Cardinal as Australia’s finest Catholic figure is one of those who felt the Church allowed. Targeted They fell and were insensitive to the suffering of the abused children.

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Cardinal George Pell will leave the Melbourne Administrative Court in Melbourne, Australia on May 1, 2018. (Michael Dodge / Getty Images)

If the presumption of innocence is ignored

What was forgotten in this was the fundamental question of whether the Cardinal committed these terrible crimes. It is now a matter of historical record that in a unanimous decision (7-0), the High Court of Australia abandoned the Cardinal’s conviction and stated in that decision: A person was convicted because he did not prove guilty about the evidence standards that required evidence. “

Father Frank Brennan was convinced that media and public commentary had influenced Cardinal Pell’s chances of a fair trial (already unstable). “My only conclusion is that the jury is [Pell’s lawyer Robert Richter QC] Evidence of the petitioner, “he said. I wrote at that time..

Unfortunately, the results of Pell v The Queen do not prevent some media personalities from commenting on claims that have not yet been proven in court. Therefore, it may violate another basic legal principle known as the Subjudicial Rule, which restricts comments related to judicial proceedings. In order not to judge the problem in advance. Violations of this rule are contempt of court.

In a presentation at the Australian Logie Awards last week, Lisa Wilkinson of Network 10 described the case by accepting her award for reporting allegations by former Liberal Party employee Brittany Higgins of sexual assault in the Capitol.

Bruce Railman, the man charged with the assault, vowed to reveal his name.Indeed, he has Acquitted For the price. Given that the trial was to begin on July 4, Wilkinson was warned a few days ago that he would give a speech about Brittany Higgins at the Logie Awards.

Delayed hearing

Following this speech, Rheaman’s lawyer asked the judge to stay (delay) the trial, considering that the publicity surrounding Wilkinson’s speech would reduce the likelihood of a fair trial. The trial will be held in the Australian Capital Territory. As in Victoria, a jury trial is required for a criminal trial. There is no possibility that a judge alone will request a trial.

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Former Liberal Party staff Brittany Higgins will address the media at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, on February 9, 2022. (Photo by Lisa Marie Williams / Getty Images)

The trial is set to start on October 4, and the anxiety of all involved has been prolonged. Wilkinson was naturally criticized by many in the media and the legal community for her comments. As a result, Wilkinson, Network 10, and others had to make a compelling promise to the court not to comment between now and the end of the trial.

In fact, Australian juries and courts can and in fact reach false verdicts. Infamously convicted in Australian history before Cardinal Pell, including Colin Campbell Ross, Brothers Mickelberg, John Button, Darryl Beamish, Andrew Mallard, and Lindy Chamberlain. There are some expensive cases. Australian history, to name just a few.

Needless to say, crimes of child abuse and sexual assault must be condemned, and the perpetrators face the full power of the law. However, since we know that false allegations irreparably damage our livelihood and reputation, the execution of these crimes must be proved beyond reasonable doubt after a thorough and proper investigation. Must be.

Perhaps this is why Network 10 has raised the possibility of a defamation proceeding against any of Wilkinson’s many critics, in which case the work should end here.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Rocco Roiacono


Rocco Loiacono is a senior instructor and translator from Italian to English at Curtin University Law School in Perth, Australia. His work on translation, linguistics, and law is widely published in peer-reviewed journals.