By: Simon B
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Crime and the Law
As far as the law is concerned, a crime is a crime whether it’s a drunk and disorderly offence or manslaughter; the only difference is in the punishment of the offender. However, an underlying principle implies that it’s better than a few guilty people get off than one innocent person be punished for something he didn’t do. The following guidelines help uphold that principle:
- If you’re charged with an offence, you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty, but you may be detained in police custody until you are charged.
- The prosecution has to prove ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ that you committed the offence. If reasonable doubt exists, you go free.
- You don’t have to ‘help the police with their enquiries’ or give them a statement, and you can remain silent and say ‘no comment’ to all questions in the interview. If you don’t cooperate, it can’t be held against you at the trial unless the circumstances are exceptional.
- Any previous convictions are not revealed to the jury during a trial unless they’re relevant to that trial – for example, someone on trial for child sex offences may have previous child sex offences revealed.
- Hearsay, something heard from someone else – isn’t accepted as evidence – witnesses have to report what they saw and heard for themselves.
- The press and media can’t speculate on cases that are going through the courts. They can report only the facts.
You can end up in court because you’re sent a summons to appear, or you can be arrested and charged. The more serious the impact the case could have on your life, the more important it is to get legal advice. If you may lose your driving licence, for example, and you make your living as a driver, you really should get legal advice straight away. If you may be sent to prison or are likely to lose your job, you need all the help you can get.