'Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.' That was the thought of English jurist, judge and politician William Blackstone. It is quite right that the Crown have to prove a case beyond all reasonable doubt. One of the problems in our society is that reasonable has now stretched to any outlandish tale that despite its unlikelihood might possibly be feasible.
What this means is that hundreds of guilty people are walking away free and victims are not getting the justice they deserve. Why is it that the public when they are victims can see that offenders tales are pure bunkum but when you put them on a jury they become gullible putty in the hands of defence lawyers?
Here are brief examples of recent cases in my area where the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have decided that there is insufficient evidence to have any realistic chance of a successful prosecution.
1. A van containing two men stops and the passenger gets out and threatens a pedestrian with a knife. The offender steals the pedestrians wallet and telephone and then gets back in the van, which drives away. A witness sees the offence and takes the vans registration number. The police trace the van an hour later and arrest the driver. There is no sign of the passenger. In interview the driver states that his passenger asked him to stop so he could speak to a friend. He stated he had no idea that the passenger had robbed anyone. He refused to name the passenger. CPS decided there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.
2. A 16 year old youth gets off a bus. Nearby are a group of about 8 young men. The youth attempts to walk past the group but they surround him. He is punched to the ground and repeatedly kicked causing cuts and bruising. The victim knows one of the group by name, a 20 year old man who has 15 previous convictions, including violence. The victim cannot state that the named suspect was one whose fist or boot assaulted him. The suspect is arrested. He admits being one of the group. He states that he did not assault the youth nor did he see any of the group assault the youth. He will not name any of the group of suspects. Insufficient evidence to prosecute.
3. A car is stolen and then later abandoned. It is forensically examined and a thumb print of a suspect is found on the rear view mirror. The suspect is arrested. He initially makes no comment and then following disclosure of the thumb print he states that he was given a lift in the car by a friend. He states he had no idea that the car was stolen. He did not drive the vehicle. He may have touched the rear view mirror as he had some dirt in his eye. He refused to name the driver. Insufficient evidence to charge.
Police officers reading this will not be at all surprised and will have hundreds of similar stories to tell.
The police and the rest of the criminal justice system are vilified for failing to detect these crimes, failing victims and justice. We need to review the law to ensure that more offenders face justice for their crimes. Is it not time that we consider changing the law so that an inference of guilt should be made against those that refuse to support justice by failing to name suspects or offenders?
The opinions and views expressed here are mine, and mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect the policies and views of the Utopian Police Force nor the City of Utopia.
The stories I tell here are all true but my purpose is not technical accuracy. My purpose is to illustrate the nature of policing in an educational and entertaining way.
I have tried to respect the privacy of the citizens of the city and to relate specific facts without identifying individuals. I believe I succeed in this but if you do recognize yourself and believe others will too, please contact me and I shall rectify it.