To what ExtenT do 'Reverse Burdens' Whittle down the Rule in Woolmington v DPP - Essay Example

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To What Extent do ‘Reverse Burdens’ Whittle down the Rule in Woolmington v DPP? Introduction Lord Sankey described the burden of proof in criminal trials as the prosecution’s burden. It is for the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt subject to statutory exceptions and insanity defence.1 The rule is therefore reflective of the presumption of innocence as provided for in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).2 However, since Lord Sankey’s assessment of the rule relative to the burden of proof in a criminal trial, the list of statutory exceptions have increased significantly and courts have been finding creative ways for reconcilin…
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To what ExtenT do Reverse Burdens Whittle down the Rule in Woolmington v DPP
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Download file to see previous pages This paper demonstrates how reverse burdens have whittled down the presumption of innocence and how reverse burdens are justified in appropriate cases. I. The Presumption of Innocence All persons accused of a criminal offence are presumed innocent. The presumption of innocence is codified by Article 6(2) of the ECHR. Article 6(2) which is prefaced by a right to fair trial within a reasonable time,4 provides for the presumption of innocence until guild is proven “according to law”.5By virtue of the Human Rights Act 1998, the ECHR is a part of the British law and all national statutes must be read and interpreted in such a way as to be compatible with the ECHR.6 The presumption of innocence means that the prosecution must prove the essential elements of the alleged offence. As Blackstone’s Criminal Practice notes: The phrase ‘the presumption of innocence’ is often used as a convenient abbreviation of the common-law rule that, generally speaking, the prosecution bears the burden of proving all the elements in the offence necessary to establish guilt.7 Specifically, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the act constituting the offense (actus reus) and had the “requisite state of mind” (mens rea).8 The common law rule was stated by Lord Sankey in Woolmington v DPP. In the case, the defendant was convicted of murdering his wife as a result of shooting. The defendant argued that the gun was discharged accidentally. The trial judge ruled that the defendant bore the burden of proving that he lacked the necessary mens rea. Upon appeal, the House of Lords, allowing the appeal ruled that in criminal trials, the common law rule was that the burden of proof showing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt resided with the prosecution.9 Therefore the presumption of innocence is not lost until such time as the prosecution discharges the burden of proof beyond a reasonable. This is a primary requisite for a fair trial pursuant to Article 6 of the ECHR.10 It was held in McIntosh v Lord Advocate11 that a difficult paradox is created by the presumption of innocence and the public’s interest in ensuring that the guilty are convicte ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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