Understanding the Law
June 14, 2019
Do the innocent pay for the guilty?

In a narrow sense if a person is charged with a crime and that person is proven guilty in a miscarriage of justice then it could be said that the innocent pays for the guilty, because the person who committed the crime is not the one who bears the penalty. An innocent person does not intentionally or consciously participate in a crime. There are opportunities for a person to appeal if found guilty, but if the appeals are not successful then that person is punished. However, we have heard of cases where persons have been cleared many years after serving for a crime. We will like to know that judicial systems all over the world are incapable of mistakes, but unfortunately, sometimes mistakes occur and innocent people bear the penalty. What is disturbing is when the death sentence is the punishment.

The fact that a person could be exonerated many years after the committal of a crime is perhaps the singly most reason in favour of life imprisonment instead of the death sentence. The innocent does not have to suffer for the guilty if proper evidence is before the court and the matter is properly adjudicated. Sometimes it is a matter of the evidence from the witnesses who swear to tell the truth and failure of proper cross-examination techniques or biasness. In modern times deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), has been used and persons have been saved from jail or death sentences when biological evidence is available. A sample of the suspect’s DNA is used to compare to evidence found at the crime scene. DNA fingerprinting can be done on a drop of blood or hair root, because these contain body cells from which DNA could be obtained. DNA information is usually kept in databases. The DNA profile of the offender could also be run against the database for identification.

Outside the court the term “the innocent pays for the guilty” is used in a broader sense as “Peter paying for Paul” and there are many instances for this in our daily lives. It is especially relevant in the world of international travel where the harm caused, and threat to do harm to people on aircrafts have led to many restrictions and inconveniences for the travelling public. Over the years, a long list of items that cannot be taken on commercial flights has built up and passengers have to walk through metal detectors to make sure that prohibited items are not taken onto the aircraft. Personal effects have to be scanned to make sure passengers do not take onboard banned items.

If people do what is right then the world would be a better place. Everyone would benefit, but because of selfishness of a few,
others suffer. We are generally a law-abiding people and we could all suffer

the consequences caused by the few.

Innocent until
proven guilty
Anyone who commits a crime is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. This is the starting point for our law court. It is a fundamental principle of our legal system. The prosecutor must prove the case before him. The offender does not have to do so. He must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the crime charged, in a public trial where there are guarantees for the defense of the offender. Both physical evidence and oral testimony are brought before the court in a trial of the offender. The evidence must convince the jury that the offender is guilty.

l Ada Johnson is a
solicitor and
E-mail address is:
[email protected]