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Publication - Dr Michael Naughton

    How the presumption of innocence renders the innocent vulnerable to wrongful convictions


    Naughton, M, 2011, ‘How the presumption of innocence renders the innocent vulnerable to wrongful convictions’. IJLS, vol 2., pp. 40 - 54


    This article argues that the presumption of innocence and accompanying principles, such as the burden of proof on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, in reality acts against the interests of those who might be innocent. This is because the ‘presumption’, in effect, renders suspects of crime passive and generally inactive, whilst the ’burden’ places pressure on the police and prosecution to chip away at the presumed innocent status and construct cases that might obtain a conviction. This renders innocent victims vulnerable to wrongful convictions.

    Therefore, when it comes to the presumption of innocence, there is a need for greater understanding of the distinction between theory and reality. Currently, in practise, the presumption does not protect against wrongful convictions as is widely supposed. Conversely, it can actually facilitate them.

    The investigative approach of the University of Bristol Innocence Project represents an alternative. The Project argues that the innocent will be better protected against wrongful conviction only when all resources and efforts are orientated towards subjecting the evidence which has been put forward to indicate guilt to critical interrogation to see if it can be substantiated.

    Full details in the University publications repository