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David Cameron implies that ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’ is not enough in terror cases. Eeek.

‘Innocent until proven Guilty’. It is an old adage and one that I stand by fiercely as do most liberals. It is a core element of who we are. If I was being posh I’d say, ‘Ei incumbit probatio, qui dicit, non qui negat; cum per rerum naturam factum negantis probatio nulla sit’ which as I’m sure you all know means, ‘he proof lies upon him who affirms, not upon him who denies; since, by the nature of things, he who denies a fact cannot produce any proof’. A very good point indeed.

I have served on two juries in my time on two very different cases. One case we all thought that the two defendants were clearly not guilty and we ruled as such. On the second we were split and there was a lot of debate but in the end as the foreman I made the decision that it was clear the case was not proven and therefore we must find the man not guilty as the case for the prosecution had not proved their case anywhere near beyond reasonable doubt. My fellow jurors agreed with the exception of one lady who then proceeded to take hours before admitting that just using solely the facts provided in court she couldn’t be sure he was guilty, so we found him not guilty. Whether he was or not is not the point and I have never lost sleep over it although I suspect others may have done in that room (let’s just say it was a very serious crime).

Why am I writing about this? Well today during Prime Minsters Questions a Tory backbench MP asked about being able to deport those that we suspect of being terrorists and the PM confirmed that is the plan. It made my blood boil. If the intelligence services suspect someone of doing such a thing then follow him, watch their every move and then step in to stop it if they are doing something that threatens national security. Then put them to trial and let a jury of twelve men and women decide whether or not they have committed a crime. Surely if someone is suspected of plotting terrorism then the reason they are suspected is if they have evidence to back it up. If they have enough evidence then arrest and try to convict. Surely that is the way forward?

If they arrest and a jury finds them not guilty then will this government still try to deport them? You can bet your bottom dollar on it. The presumption of innocence is a core value of mine and as far as I know in most people. If someone is found not guilty in a Court of Law then that is it – the end. There is no comebacks. No-one should be able to step in and say, ‘well I think the jury are a bunch of idiots and in fact we are going to throw them out of the country any way as we think we are right’. Surely a Court of Law should be the highest court in the land in criminal trials and if it isn’t then certain people and decisions are above the law – and that is a terrifying place to be.

I know people worry about terrorism, we all do to some degree. However throwing people out of the country with no proof of any wrong doing is all manners of wrong. I know it is easier for me to sit here and say that even though I have no real power compared to say the PM who has to tink of the safety of the country but still, everyone is equal and everyone should be held to the same standard. If a suspect was suspected of plotting a murder would they be thrown out of the country if there wasn’t enough evidence for a conviction but just they were suspected of doing a crime? If you handle suspected terrorists in that way then you are setting a very dangerous precedent. We have the judicial system for a reason. If government wants to by-pass that then who knows where it’ll stop.

The last Labour government were about the worst in terms of protecting our civil liberties compared to many western countries. This government are working towards fixing some of these issues but that question and answer from the PM haunted me. What levels of suspicion will be needed to deport someone or detain someone? If it is anything below the levels tat would secure a conviction in a Court of Law then it is wrong and extremely illiberal and immoral. If that is how the PM wants it then it won’t be that dis-similar to the Salem Witch Trials. All it needs is an accusation and some malicious gossip and the power of the mob will take action on its own. I know it’s a stretch but I’ve seen it before. A pediatrician being mistaken for a pedophile. Let’s just say the results weren’t pretty.

The Court of Law must rule on all cases of criminal acts for if they don’t then the road we are going down is a scary one for us all.

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  1. jjones jjones

    A friend of mine is on a curfew 7pm -7am, has had to leave his home in north London to reside in Surrey and report to the police twice a day. This man has lost his job and has been provided temporary shelter in South London, however that person has friends coming from overseas so he has to find alternative accomodation in Surrey as per bail conditions. The point I am trying to illustrate is that he is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. I understand that it is a serious charge, however he has not stood trial yet. I could go on but I won’t. There patently is no justice if you are poor.

  2. Excellent blog.

    I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of where the burden of proof should and does lie. It is pleasing to see that this does get carried out in the court of law and why you should sleep soundly for issuing a verdict of not guilty.

    I despair when I see photographs in the newspapers of people who have been arrested for various crimes (like the recent sad story regarding Joanna Yeates) as these people are yet to be found guilty and could still be cleared of all charges yet they will have to live with the stigma for the rest of their lives.

    There is also such prejudice with regards the Muslim community and terrorists that I fear you are right with your assessment likening it to a witch hunt.

    • That case made me feel disgusted I must admit. When the teacher/landlord was arrested – the media and social network had decided he was guilty. If he had it in him he could sue to clean up. The way he (and others) are treated is awful. For example I think all rape cases should be subject to a reporting ban until after the trial as anyone charged with that crime is presumed guilty and has to clear their name when in fact the burden should always be on the other foot.

  3. I’m afraid, Neil, you are wrong on this. The burden of proof required in THIS country is such that we are now the WORLD centre for radicalised and extremist groups and individuals. It is a known fact and has been for many years.Our Police’s/Courts’ hands are tied by Human Rights laws, and by the fact that we dullard Brits seem to think HR laws are more “fundamental” than the fundamental freedom to LIVE. Even when they apply to those who want to deny US our human rights, we still yell that they are of the utmose importance. It’s utter rot. A crazy mixed-up fundamentalist position for which many other “fundamentalists” are supremely grateful (to you!)

    I also do not recognise this:

    “The last Labour government were about the worst in terms of protecting our civil liberties compared to many western countries. ”

    I’ve literally NEVER ever felt his and I have only ever lived in his country. It is a myth put about by so-called “liberals” and “libertarians” by extending – as if it were the norm – the very few sanctions that the last government TRIED and largely failed to put in place against extremism.

    • If you’ve not felt your civil liberties being impacting during the last 10-15 years then you are a very lucky person. Most people I know have felt this and felt this strongly. It was my biggest bugbear with the past Labour government that it felt that civil liberties were not important.

      If you don’t believe that innocent until proven guilty is a mantra that you can follow then that is your call but it is one most of us are happy to live by. If you or someone you knew was suspected of a crime but there was no evidence – would you be happy if you or they were found guilty and sent down?

  4. Just because everyone should be held to the same standard I think Britian needs to improve its system of immigration because a common situation today is that a person without even a basic knowledge of the English language or culture comes to live there. This is why I agree with Cameron when he says that British values should be promoted among the people of foreign nationalities who want to live in Britain.

    • My thoughts on that are I could freely go and live in a country where I don’t know the language or the culture so why can’t people do that when they come over here? The world is a big place and there are many different cultural experiences available to us so why should we not experience them if we chose to?

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