Burden of Proof

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As stated by Lord Chancellor Viscount Samkey[1], it is essential that the prosecution to prove the guilt of the defendant in criminal cases. Hence, the burden of prove solely lies in the hands of the prosecution. The obvious reason to this is because everyone is entitled to a fair trial with a general presumption of innocence until proven against.

The case of Woolmington v DPP clarified several uncertainties in regards to this area of the law. Here, Reginald Woolmington’s wife left him to live with her mother three months after their marriage. After sometime, Woolmington sawed off the barrel of a double barrel shotgun, cycled to the house his wife was living and shot her. She died and Woolmington claimed the incident was an
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Hence, absolute certainty is not required, but a high degree of probability needs to be shown. This was given by the case of Miller v Minister of Pensions.[13] To add to this, when deciding on the standard of proof, judges are not required to use particular words, as long as the jury understands the substance of the test. In contrary, Lord Scarman[14] stated that judges should use a specific formula in ensuring the jury understands the test. This was explained in the case of R v Kritz.[15] The rule has been widely used in criminal law, such as in rape cases where the prosecution bare the burden of proving the absence of consent, as seen in cases such R v Horn[16] and R v Donovan[17] including statutes such as the Sexual Offences Act 2003.[18]

However, the Woolmington’s rule is subject to certain exceptions such as if a person charged with murder raises partial or general defenses such as insanity or diminished responsibility, it is up to the defendant to prove evidence to prove it. This was provided by the M’Naghten’s case[19]. This is due to the difficulty in proving false claims of insanity as the defendant could be uncooperative during an investigation of his mental state of mind. However, this was severely criticized by Ashworth in his article ‘Four threats to the presumption of innocence’.[20] If a defendant is charged of murder and raised the defences such as insanity or diminished responsibility, the burden will then be shifted to the
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