The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of the criminal justice system in Queensland and in Australia. It holds that every person accused of a crime is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This presumption is ensured through inclusion in various pieces of Queensland and Australian legislation. In this blog post, we will explore why the presumption of innocence is so important in Australia and how it serves to protect the rights of the accused.
Protection of the Rights of the Accused
The presumption of innocence serves to protect the rights of the accused, and ensures that they are not punished without first having the opportunity to defend themselves. This is particularly important in a criminal justice system where the power of the state is often pitted against the individual. It also ensures that the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and not the accused, meaning that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the accused person, rather than the accused person having to prove their innocence. This is an important safeguard against wrongful convictions, with Section 32 of the Human Rights Act 2019 saying that:
“A person charged with a criminal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”
Challenges to the Presumption of Innocence
In practice, the presumption of innocence can be challenged. There are many examples of this principle being eroded in recent years, especially in the context of public opinion and media coverage. For example, in high-profile cases, it is not uncommon for the media to report on the case in a way that presumes the guilt of the accused. This can lead to a situation where the accused person is tried by the court of public opinion before they have had the chance to defend themselves in court. This is not only unfair to the accused, but it also undermines public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Importance in Bail Decisions
The importance of the presumption of innocence for the accused is also evident when it comes to bail. In Queensland, bail is granted to accused persons with the presumption of innocence, under the Bail Act 1980. Under the Act, the prosecution must prove that the accused person poses a risk to the community, or are likely to reoffend or interfere with witnesses, in order to be kept in custody. This principle ensures that an accused person who is not a danger to the community is released from custody, and does not have to be in custody awaiting trial.
In addition, the principle of the presumption of innocence is also reflected in the rules of evidence, which are designed to ensure that the accused person is given a fair trial. For example, under the Queensland Evidence Act 1977, hearsay evidence, which is evidence that is given by a witness who did not personally experience or observe the events in question, is not usually admissible. This is to prevent an accused person from being convicted based on evidence that they cannot effectively challenge or rebut.
Have More Questions Regarding The Presumption of Innocence In Australia?
The presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of the criminal justice system in Australia. It serves to protect the rights of the accused and ensures that they are not punished without first having the opportunity to defend themselves. If you have been charged with a crime, it is essential that you have a legal professional to guide you through the process and to help you defend your rights.
Guest Lawyers is a team of highly-skilled, dedicated lawyers who are experienced in defending those charged with all types of criminal and traffic offences, including drug offences and unlicensed driving, with the aim to offer honest and respectful legal advice. We will ensure you fully understand your rights and the legal process, while helping you achieve the best outcome possible for your individual situation. We invite you to get in touch or call us on (07) 3369 0640 today.