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Re: the most annoying thing about Juan
I think we need a mandatory reading list - topics, and mandatory reading
on each topic, to consider oneself "informed" for a debate (and I say
this as someone who has too often jammed foot in mouth, and been not
informed on topics I thought I was, and presumably still fall FAR short
on!) - anyone up for starting a gitified recommended reading list?:
** innocent until proven guilty vs lynch mobs:
Of Witch Trials and Inquisitions
Salem Witch Trials vs. the Spanish Inquisition - StarDestroyer.Net BBS
A Brief History Of The Salem Witch Trials - Free Republic
The Malleus Maleficarum
Kenja Theatre Documentary - Guilty Until Proven Innocent - Kenja ...
Justice: Which countries treat suspects as guilty until proven innocent?
It's bad everywhere, including here in Australia, from "crimes" where
there are no victims (as in most of "the west") to instutitionalization
of the principle of guilty until you prove your damn innocence.
Australia is a classic example of a messed up country - this stuff
destoys familes, lives, and IS institutionalized in our country:
Hazem El Masri case shows Australia has a problem with innocent until
The principle of treating someone as innocent until they are proven
guilty no longer exists.
George Williams March 15 2016
'Trouble just happens to find you': Hazem El Masri opens up
Australia has a problem with the presumption of innocence. It is
being displaced by a rush to judgment. The reasons for this are
understandable, but problematic. People want to believe that the
perpetrator of a violent act has been found and arrested. They
want to see someone punished for the crime.
El Masri urges others to report violence
Hazem El Masri has spoken to the press after charges against him were
dropped. He encouraged those listening to report all instances of
The likelihood of prejudgment is increased when the accused fits the
profile of a person expected to be involved in illegal activity. Such
stereotypes are reinforced by media reporting, and can be compounded by
politicians willing to echo, rather than question, community
NRL players are often subject to such assumptions of guilt. Former NRL
star Hazem El Masri is an example. Despite an unblemished record as a
player, and a long history of community service, many were ready to
assume that allegations of domestic violence were well-founded.
Hazem El Masri after appearing at Bankstown court where all charges
against him were dropped. Photo: Nick Moir
As El Masri has said (
): "A lot of people branded me guilty without even a presumption of
innocence beforehand … Everyone wants to jump on that bandwagon". The
result was "probably … the toughest thing in my whole life". The episode
has come at a great personal cost, even though he has now been
vindicated. The allegations against him have been shown to be false, and
the charges withdrawn by the police (
His case raises questions about how well we respect the notion that a
person must be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Known as "the
golden thread" of the criminal law, the presumption means that the
prosecution must prove the guilt of a person beyond reasonable doubt.
This enables our society to be underpinned by justice and fair
treatment. It acts as a crucial counterweight to the tendency to
The law must reflect this principle. Unfortunately, and increasingly, it
does not. For many years, parliaments around Australia have enacted new
statutes that erode the presumption of innocence. This in turn has
contributed to a growing community culture in which it has become more
acceptable to judge a person based upon media coverage and political
commentary, rather than on the basis of evidence assessed by a judge or
This problem is now so widespread that it was the subject of a speech
last month by the Chief Justice of NSW, Tom Bathurst. His survey of the
NSW statute book threw up more than just a few instances here and there.
The results were shocking in showing that breaches of the presumption
have become a routine part of the legislative process. His conservative
estimate was that there are at least 52 laws in the state that encroach
upon the principle. It is being whittled away, piece by piece.
One example is section 685 of the Local Government Act. It reverses the
presumption of innocence by making that mere allegations, such as that
someone has not received a council approval, is "sufficient proof of the
matter" alleged. In the words of the chief justice, this "renders
someone guilty of a criminal offence by a mere accusation".
Another example is section 60E of the Water Management Act. It says that
where water is taken without a licence, the occupier of the relevant
premises is deemed guilty of an offence. Remarkably, the act goes on to
state that this does not prevent proceedings being brought against "the
person who actually committed the offence".
Federal law provides many further examples. A long list is set out in
the report on traditional rights and freedoms released earlier this
month by the Australian Law Reform Commission. Some of the federal laws
that breach the presumption are in expected areas such as terrorism and
drug offences. Others relate to taxation, copyright and marriage.
The commission's report reveals that infringements upon the principle
are pervasive, and that many such laws are enacted without exciting
media attention or political debate. It has simply become common to
treat a person as being guilty unless they can show otherwise.
The consequences are enormous. It means that people can be imprisoned
where once they would have been let free. Bail laws have been tightened,
and prisons filled to overcrowding, on the basis that accusations should
more readily allow a person to be detained before trial. Despite this,
politicians are still prone to recite the mantra that a person is
innocent until proven guilty. At some point, such exhortations must ring
As the long list of laws breaching the presumption of innocence grows,
we are losing something fundamental and important from our system of
justice. A long-standing principle protective of individuals and the
truth is giving way to a regime based increasingly upon assumptions and
premature judgment. In the light of this, the treatment of El Masri
should come as no surprise.
George Williams is the Anthony Mason Professor of Law at the University
of New South Wales