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Access_open There is Only One Presumption of Innocence

Journal Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Issue 3 2013
Keywords burden of proof, German law, procedural rights, pretrial detention
Authors Thomas Weigend
AbstractAuthor's information

    Antony Duff proposes a comprehensive concept of the presumption of innocence, covering the period before, during and after a criminal process, both in an official (state vs. individual) and a non-official, civic sense. By that broad usage, the concept of presumption of innocence is getting blurred and risks losing its contours. I therefore suggest to keep separate matters separate. The presumption of innocence in the narrow sense that I suggest applies only where there exists a suspicion that an individual has committed a criminal offence. The important function of the presumption of innocence in that situation is to prevent an over-extension of state power against the individual under suspicion before that suspicion has been confirmed to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. A general presumption that all people abide by the law at all times is neither warranted nor necessary. It is not warranted because experience tells us that many people break some laws sometimes. And it is not necessary because a system of civil liberties is sufficient to protect us against official or social overreach based on a suspicion that we may commit crimes.


Thomas Weigend
Thomas Weigend is Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Cologne.
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