Know your rights: You are innocent until/unless proven guilty

Whenever a crime is committed, investigations and court proceedings take place before a final decision is made. This is to ensure that there is justice for the victim and the accused. It is in line with article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says that every person who is charged with a crime has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In the process of establishing whether or not someone is guilty, the accused person has to be given a fair trial and he/she has to be allowed to defend him/herself.

If an act or omission is committed before being established as a crime under national or international law, article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that no one can be held guilty for it. And for any offense, the punishment given cannot be heavier than the one that is applicable at the time it is committed.

This means that, for example, if someone commits petty theft at the time when the maximum sentence is six months in prison, even if it is later changed to a year in prison, the culprit cannot be sent to jail for more than six months.

A person who makes an accusation has the responsibility to provide proof. This is according to article 85 of Nº 30/2013 of 24/5/2013 law relating to the code of criminal procedure. For instance, if someone accuses you of breaking a window, they have to provide evidence that you did it. It is not your job to provide evidence that you didn’t do it. For crimes against the state, public prosecution provides proof and for private prosecution or cases that require compensation, the victim or his/her beneficiaries provide proof.

The need for an accused person to prove that he/she is innocent comes in when he/she has been established to be guilty. This is according to article 85 of Nº 30/2013 of 24/5/2013 law relating to the code of criminal procedure.

When evidence is presented, the accused person will have to present a defense which can be proof that the act was not an offense, or evidence to show that he/she is innocent, thus the incriminating evidence should be disregarded.

In addition to careful examination of evidence, courts of law always take into consideration three major things; motive (why someone commits a crime), opportunity (circumstances which might have made it easy to commit the crime), and means (this includes the tool, method or technique for committing the crime).

All this is done to ensure that people are not wrongly convicted of crimes.

 

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