The presumption of innocence only applies in criminal proceedings

While ever}' person may benefit from the presumption of innocence, the application of the right is limited to the general context of criminal procedure. This is partially because criminal proceedings are where the determination of legal guilt or legal innocence occurs and thus where a presumption of innocence would be relevant. That the presumption of innocence only applies in criminal proceedings also finds support in the language of the statutes and conventions studied. Criminal courts limit the presumption of innocence to criminal proceedings because those are the legal issues over which they have primary jurisdiction, and thus, the issues for which the presumption of innocence is provided. The regional human rights conventions and international human rights agreements support the idea that the presumption of innocence only applies in the context of criminal law and procedure because these documents specifically grant the right to those charged or accused with criminal offences.

It is clear that the presumption of innocence applies to criminal proceedings but what constitutes criminal proceedings is more difficult to determine and depends on the jurisdiction in question. When a legal matter is before a specific criminal court or tribunal, such as the International Criminal Court or the ad hoc Tribunals, what qualifies as a criminal proceeding is determined by statute. This is because their jurisdiction is only over very specific criminal matters. For national jurisdictions and courts of less limited jurisdiction, the inquiry becomes more difficult. Actions that may be part of criminal procedure or criminal law in one jurisdiction might be regulator}', disciplinary, or administrative in another. In Europe, the European Court of Human Rights has developed three criteria to help determine whether a law is properly categorised. Once an action is ‘criminal’ or part of criminal law or procedure, then the full due process required by criminal law must be provided to the accused, including the presumption of innocence.

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