Consider, in the absence of the 'presumption of innocence', principle, the state would not have to prove guilt, and the accused would be denied their right to due process. In noting this imbalance, a defendant’s presumption of innocence places the burden of proof on the state, wholly and entirely. Since crimes committed are considered to be against society it becomes the duty of the state to provide justice – specifically to those affected. The state’s burden is legal, as well as, the necessity to maintain societal faith in the state’s capability and capacity with respect to social discipline, prosecution and fairness. Due to the serious consequences of conviction, the state must prove guilt at a high standard (beyond a reasonable doubt). If doubt remains, the defendant must be given the benefit of the doubt and cleared because the state’s ‘burden of proof’ has not been met. It is therefore foundational in principle in which criminal justice is based, that allowing the guilty to go free is better than convicting the innocent. This serves as a preventative measure to keep the innocent out of jail. People awaiting trial have not been convicted of any offence and may ultimately be cleared.
No system is perfect, but the grave danger of arbitrary and capricious actions without regard to inalienable individual inherent rights, is a greater and an imminent threat to rule of law and democracy. In the application of ‘presumption of innocence’ is also the preservation of humanity.
By: ‘Shaan’ Shahrukh Dhanji