The Human Rights Act By Viscount Sankey Essay

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Decades before the implementation of the Human Rights Act , Viscount Sankey’s prose in Woolmington v DPP alluded to the presumption of innocence as the “one golden thread” which runs through the web of English criminal law . He essentially establishes that the legal burden of proving the defendant’s guilt lies with the prosecution . This principle is arguably underlying in every jurisdiction that respects ones right to a fair trial and is the foundation of the criminal law. There are two important themes that must be discussed relating to the principles set out in Woolmington: Firstly, in this case it was acknowledged that there can be instances where a reverse burden of proof is applied and that in fact, the onus is on the defendant to prove his innocence rather than for the prosecution to prove his guilt. Secondly, despite some departure from the Woolmington principle, it does not inevitably necessitate that the law has been unfaithful to its underlying rationale. A common deduction of the Woolmington principle is that Sankey, in his judgement, is ambiguous and left too much open to interpretation. Furthermore, it has been argued by Adrian Zuckerman that the way in which something is written can in fact lead to a justified imposition of a legal burden on the defendant and that the accused will only have to prove their innocence by disclosing an onerous burden in situations where legislation expressly commands them to. Article 6(2) of the ECHR states: “Everyone

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