Do you want a society that allows a guilty person to go free rather than mistakenly punishing an innocent one; or a society that would risk punishing an innocent person in error, rather than missing a guilty one?
What do you think we have now? What would you prefer to have?
(Got to go shopping now - dh is standing over me. I may be some time....)
Totally depends on the kind of crime you are referring to.
If you are talking about mass terrorist atrocities then I have to say that on balance I would prefer an innocent man to be punished than a guilty man be missed and hundrends die. I appreciate neither situation is perfect and the persectuion of the innocent can lead to a lot of other problems, and even encourage terrorism, but some situations are just impossible to handle perfectly.
I think we have to have the presumption of innocence, and the requirement to prove guilt properly - if the police etc are sure someone is guilty, then they should be able to prove it in court. I think we still have that, but it is being eroded in the name of security - we accept a level of checking and surveillance that would have been considered shocking not that long ago. Even in the 1970s when the IRA had bombing campaigns in the mainland UK, the government would never have got away with the level of surveillance of ordinary citizens that we now consider normal.
I'm not just talking about crime. I'm talking about our whole attitude to everything from the way we respond/react to a chance comment from a neighbour/friend to benefit fraud to murder.
It just seems to me that these days we are much more willing to take things in the 'wrong' sense than to give the benefit of the doubt.
artichokes, how do you decide where you draw the line between presumption of guilt and presumption of innocence with guilt having to be proved? What sort of effect do you think that would have on the way we behave towards people in everyday life?
AMuminScotland - agree with everything you say, but I don't think we have any sort of presumption of innocence in say, record companies who are prepared to punish everyone because some make illegal downloads, for instance. I think it was EMI who went public quite a few months ago now, saying, we assume that most of our customers are honest so we are not using this new software thing which will completely fuck up your computer or whatever it was. DH and I were gobsmacked - a company assuming people were not criminals???!!!! (I think they've changed their tune btw!?)