The presumption of innocence and its role in the criminal process

Pamela R. Ferguson (Lead / Corresponding author)

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16 Citations (Scopus)
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Many international instruments proclaim that those who face criminal prosecution ought to be afforded a 'presumption of innocence', and the importance and central role of this presumption is recognized by legal systems throughout the world. There is, however, little agreement about its meaning and extent of application. This article considers the purposes of legal presumptions in general and explores various, sometimes contradictory, conceptions of this most famous one. It is equated by many
scholars to the requirement that the prosecution prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, it is merely a rule of evidence (albeit an important one), with no application pre- or post- trial. The article advocates adoption of a broader, normative approach, namely that the presumption reflects the relationship which ought to exist between citizen and State when a citizen is suspected of breaching the criminal law. As
such, it should be promoted as a practical attitude to be adopted by the key protagonists in the justice system, for the duration of the criminal process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-158
Number of pages28
JournalCriminal Law Forum
Issue number2
Early online date26 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


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