Guilty until proven innocent? Ministry of Justice mistakenly reverses the burden of proof

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By Alex Aldridge on

Top legal tweeters Mukul Chawla QC and David Allen Green call out MoJ


The Ministry of Justice has been forced to withdraw a brochure which suggested that people were guilty until proven innocent after the error was spotted by the increasingly influential legal Twitterati.

The brochure, which is one of the MoJ’s “Easy Reads” for defendants in criminal trials at the Crown Court, stated:

“If you say you did not do the crime, you may have to go back to the court on a different day, to show the court you did not do the crime. This is called a trial. ”

The message struck 9-12 Bell Yard barrister Mukul Chawla QC as rather odd and he said so on Twitter on Friday night.

Lawyer and journalist David Allen Green picked up on Chawla’s tweets on Saturday in a blog post headlined ‘The Ministry of Justice is telling people with learning difficulties that they are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent’.

In it Green put forward this theory for the MoJ’s howler:

“What has probably happened is that the copywriter had no legal qualifications or experience, and the Easy Read was then published without anyone with legal qualifications or experience at the MoJ bothering to check that the Easy Read was accurate – that is, before publishing it for people with learning difficulties to rely on when they are accused of serious crimes.”

The MoJ has since pulled the brochure from its website and issued this statement:

“Easy read guides are an important way of providing information to people in simple and straightforward language. It is crucial to ensure these documents are precise and as helpful as possible.

“We are reviewing this guide and will remove it from our website while this process takes place.”

Meanwhile, the growing influence of the legal blogging community has been demonstrated as the story has been picked up in The Observer, the Mail Online and The Independent.