A prominent theme of the ‘Me Too’ movement
is the need to ‘believe’ a woman who accuses a man of sexual misconduct – the
man should be presumed to be guilty, thereby turning the presumption of
innocence, one of the pillars of civilised law, on its head.
The principle of the presumption of innocence has its origins in the writings of Western European (French, Spanish and Italian) jurists but flourished mainly in the English system of law where it manifests itself in the need for the prosecutor in a criminal case to prove the charge beyond reasonable doubt. The expression ‘innocent until proven guilty’ was coined by the Victorian jurist William Garrow. Lord Sankey in 1935 referred to it as the ‘golden thread’ that runs through English justice (readers may recall this as being one of Rumpole of the Bailey’s favourite quotations).