Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Innocent until proven guilty?

This week's barmy Blair idea is that juries should be told about a defendant's previous convictions in certain criminal cases.

This is yet another 'quick fix' attempt to be seen to be doing something about crime, without actually helping the situation one bit.

In any given court case their is either enough evidence to convince a jury that the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, or there is not.

The only impact information about previous convictions can have is to persuade a jury that is not convinced on the evidence of the case to find the defendant guilty.

This is likely to lead to the police being even more likely to simply finger convicted criminals known to have committed similar offences and get them into court, safe in the knowledge that they will clock up another conviction.

The aim of the criminal justice system should be to identify, convict and sentence the person guilty of the offence, not just someone who happens to have committed a similar offence previously.

The idea that increasing the chances of wrongful convictions somehow helps the victims of crime is laughable.

There are many things that can be done to improve the way the system works and makes it harder for people to get off on technicalities, but this is not one of them.

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