Category Archives: The Presumption of Innocence


Lord Moore

From this week’s Spectator – Charles Moore

“The Unintended Consequences of the Macpherson Report”

Sir William Macpherson of Cluny has died. His obituaries praise him for his 1998 inquiry into the Stephen Lawrence case. His report did indeed shed light on the failure of the police to catch the young man’s killers. It has had, however, a profound and bad effect on our law.

The report’s recommendations redefined a racist incident: ‘A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.’ This definition means that absolutely anything in the world could be a racist incident, because it relies wholly on what a complainant ‘perceives’. The definition’s use of the word ‘victim’ also implies acceptance that every person who claims to be a victim is one.

This short-circuits the duty of the law to establish the facts. And if a racist incident is thus defined, it follows that anyone who denies that a racist incident took place is rejecting the ‘perception’ of racism and is therefore himself racist, at least ‘unconsciously’ or ‘institutionally’ so.

From this perception doctrine has flowed a vast new body of law and practice which concerns not only race but other ‘hate crimes’ about religion, sexuality, sex and gender etc. It has also helped create the climate — in sex abuse claims, for instance — of believing the ‘victim’ without proper evidence.

As was obvious, though widely denied, from the first, this was bound to empower false accusations. We have seen case after case — most famously Carl Beech, fanned by Tom Watson — in which this has caused appalling pain and injustice.

We have also seen consequent bad processes deployed as weapons in unrelated disputes.

Thus Christ Church, Oxford, obsessed with getting rid of its Dean, Martyn Percy, belatedly raised ‘safeguarding’ issues to try (unsuccessfully) to discredit him.

I am afraid the Macpherson Report got all this going. Sir William, an upright judge, did not intend this, but it has happened.

To put it simply, it undermines one of the most basic principles of the rule of law — the presumption of innocence.



“Belief in the absence of convincing evidence is a form of religion. It should not be a part of our legal system, confirmation hearings, campus codes or political campaigns. What I do believe in is the presumption of innocence, whether in courts of law or public opinion, and in high standards of proof for high sorts of crime”

Bret Stephens


The justice system has worked effectively in finding insufficient evidence to find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

“The battle against corruption is very important, but it can’t come at the expense of the battle for human rights and the right of defendants. We have to educate ourselves as a society that a person cannot be penalized before he is convicted by a court. A presumption of innocence is one of the most important principles of criminal law”

~ Prof. Menachem Mautner, a leading expert on Israel’s constitutional law and the author of a book on Liberalism in Israel


“At the core of this basic premise of human rights is that every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent unless and until his or her guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt. The idea of innocence is not dialogue written for a series based on the law. It is law.  It is the job of the accuser, or the prosecutor, to prove that the crime was committed.  That the accused is guilty of committing that crime”

~ Jacquie Kubin


“In America, everyone who is accused of a crime has the right to be presumed innocent.  It’s also true that accusations of criminal behavior are investigated. That should be done with every case of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, or rape.  Every single one.  It starts with believing the survivor, but does not end there.  To suggest that believing them means convicting the accused overlooks legal protections beginning with the presumption of innocence and going on to the right to confront your accuser and evidence offered and so on.

Me Too became a thing because mostly privileged men pretty much had immunity from prosecution for rape and other sex crimes.  Then we saw some high profile convictions, such as those of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein.  Jeffrey Epstein was awaiting trial he died in prison.  The survivors in all these cases had to fight decades just to get their day in court.

And yet, as Christine Pelosi pointed out in a thread on Twitter, the process for investigating alleged sexual misconduct by members of the Senate or the House is broken.

– Adalia Woodbury


“We can continue to combat sexual misconduct without abandoning our core values of fairness, presumption of innocence and due process”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos