The right to a fair trial is one which applies not just in the courts but in everyday life. There is no point in accusing someone of a misdeed unless there is supporting evidence and in a court this must be of a high standard. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is the oft-quoted phrase. The principle may have been abused in the past (see Witches, for example), but it is recognised as being essential for trust in the judiciary and the government.
It means that all laws must be public with no hidden extras; everyone is treated equally; judges must apply the law and be impartial; no new laws can punish people retrospectively for things that were legal at the time; and there is the right to appeal the court’s decision. Defendants are entitled, and strongly advised, to have legal representation in court in order to put their case in terms that are acceptable.
When arrested, the accused must be told the exact reason and the ancient right of habeas corpus ensures that he or she is brought to trial and not left locked up indefinitely. The court will then decide to release the defendant if the prosecution cannot prove guilt.
(Image: vaXzine at Flickr.com / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)