Presumed Innocent until Proven Guilty

Presumed Innocent until Proven Guilty

Section 11(d) of the Charter guarantees everyone the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. The purpose of section 11(d) is to ensure that only guilty parties are brought to justice and punished. In practice, section 11(d) means that the Crown must prove an accused guilty of the offence as charged, and guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

What is the Right to be Presumed Innocent until Proven Guilty According to Law?

The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal ensures that individuals charged with an offence will only be punished where they have been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In any criminal matter, the burden lies with the Crown to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused committed the offence as charged, unless the accused chooses to plead guilty. Section 11(d) ensures that all accused persons are presumed to be innocent until the Crown has met this burden. The Crown must prove each individual element of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Further, section 11(d) also ensures that the process by which the Crown prosecutes the individual is fair. This means that the trial must be fair and must satisfy the principles of natural justice. For a trial to be fair, it must be open to the public to allow the public to examine the trial process. It must also be presided over by an independent and impartial tribunal. In criminal matters, this will be a judge or a judge and jury. Judges and juries must be impartial and able to access the facts of the case and the law without any personal bias affecting their analysis.

When is the Right Triggered

The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal is triggered immediately once an individual is charged with a criminal offence. The right follows the accused throughout the court process, beginning with the bail hearing.

What happens if the Right is Violated?

Where an individual believes their section 11(d) Charter right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty has been violated and the accused is convicted of an offence, the accused may appeal their conviction. The appeal would argue that the accused’s section 11(d) right has been violated. If successful, the appeal court may order a remedy pursuant to section 24(1) of the Charter.

Example

Person A is charged with committing sexual assault and sets the matter down for trial. Prior to trial, judge B is seized of the matter and scheduled to preside over the trial. On the day of trial person A arrives, see’s judge B in the courtroom and immediately recognizes him as the complainant’s uncle. The trial goes ahead, and person A is convicted. Person A’s lawyer feels as though the judge behaved in an unfair manner throughout the trial and launches a section 11(f) Charter challenge arguing that judge B was not independent and impartial, citing his close personal relationship with the alleged victim. Person A’s Charter challenge is successful, and a new trial is ordered.

Cases

Valente v. The Queen, [1985] 2SCR 673

In the case of Valente v. The Queen, the Supreme Court of Canada discussed section 11(d) and the meaning of an independent and impartial tribunal. The Court indicated that the test for determining whether a particular arbitrator would be considered independent and impartial would be whether the arbitrator would be “reasonably perceived as independent”. If the arbitrator would reasonably be perceived as bias or incapable of acting objectively, they will not be considered independent and impartial.

R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 SCR 103

In the landmark case of R. v. Oakes, the Supreme Court of Canada outlined the minimum requirements that must be met pursuant to section 11(d) of the Charter. The Court indicated that for the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty to be protected, at a minimum, the following must occur: the accused must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, by the Crown, and the method of proving guilt must be carried out in accordance with lawful procedures and fairness.

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