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Day: February 9, 2011

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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