Guilty until you can prove yourself innocent

Political correctness is an increasing threat to the rule of law. First the immemorial rule that no man could be tried twice for the same crime was abrogated in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence case and the subsequent, egregious Macpherson Report, a low point in the extensive history of British official moral cowardice.

Now the Director of Public Prosecutions has suggested that henceforth men accused of rape should have to prove to the police that their accuser consented to sexual intercourse and was in a condition to assent to it. In effect, this reverses the onus of proof for the first time from the prosecution to the defence. The man is to be presumed guilty until proved innocent rather than the other way round. It is a blackmailers’ charter.

Suppose the DPP had suggested that, henceforth, muggers or any other class of criminal had to prove that they did not mug their accuser: what an outcry there would be (and justifiably so) from the habitual defenders of human rights! But the response from those quarters has been muted, to say the least. Human rights are universal, but some people have fewer such rights than other, among them those people acquitted of racist murder or accused of rape.

Now it is true that both crimes are dreadful, but that hardly needs to be said. They are not uniquely dreadful, however, because – unfortunately – there are many dreadful crimes. I had patients who had been tortured horribly for days, and permanently maimed, by their drug dealers. Shane Jenkin put out Tina Nash’s eyes with his bare hands. One of the last murders trials in which I gave evidence was of a crime so brutal, committed by four people with no racial, sexual or financial motive, that I could not possibly describe it in print. I knew of cases of ill-treatment of children so horrible that very tough policemen, accustomed to the grimy side of life, were deeply affected by them. Where crime is concerned, we should recall the line of Gerard Manley Hopkins: No worst, there is none.

But the very worst criminal has the right to a defence, no less than the sainted innocent, and the basis on which he must be found guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, holds for him too. This is a basic protection of our law, and it is alarming to think that the DPP does not understand this, or that there is now a substantial lobby that believes in the kind of jurisprudence practised by Andrei Vyshinsky and Roland Freisler.

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