Anyone even remotely familiar with the legal system will be aware of the necessity to prove a case beyond what is known as ‘reasonable doubt’ in order to substantiate a charge being brought.
Such a standard requires prosecutors to advance evidence capable of overcoming any objection if they believe that an offence has indeed been committed.
Sometimes, of course, the facts put forward to corroborate an allegation of wrong-doing are simply not strong enough to sustain a case or are presented in such a fashion as to leave gaps.
If cases collapse as a result, the eventuality is often described as involving someone escaping likely punishment because of their exploiting a ‘loophole’.
However, dismissing justifiable complaints about the technical or administrative merits of a prosecution fails to take into account the fundamental importance of justice being based on incontrovertible facts.
These are issues which have surfaced in the trial of the England Rugby Union star Danny Cipriani on drink-driving charges.
He is accused of being twice over the drink-driving limit when he allegedly crashed his car into a taxi in London last June.
His lawyer has argued that there is insufficient evidence to show that the machine on which Mr Cipriani was breath-tested was not calibrated properly.
According to press reports, magistrates in Westminster are now deliberating as to whether the case should continue.
The intervention is potentially crucial. If the breathalyser used had not been set up or tested properly, there is no evidence as to its accuracy and, if that is the case, there could well be reasonable doubt about whether the readings produced in Mr Cipriani’s case are reliable.
Police have an obligation in all matters to keep clear and accurate records of their procedures. More than the anxiety on the part of those facing charges which might perhaps be based on incorrect data, each case brought to court uses up valuable public money.
Regardless of the individual concerned, defendants should only be convicted when there is sufficient evidence that they did in fact commit the crime alleged.
Individuals accused of drink-driving, for instance, cannot and should not be convicted just because they appeared drunk.
Whatever the outcome of Mr Cipriani’s case, one would hope that it acts as a reminder to police of the need to make sure of their facts before they proceed with a charge of this nature.
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