Senator Leyonhjelm on the presumption of innocence

This week, Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm (New South Wales) gave a great defence of the presumption of innocence, and the importance of the Magna Carta as a basis of the rule of law in Australia.

After noting that the presumption of innocence lies at the heart of the rule of law, he later concluded by saying:

Why is the presumption of innocence so remarkable? Because it represents a decisive rejection of the just-world fallacy. The just-world fallacy holds that a person’s actions always result in fair and fit consequences, and it exists because people are uncomfortable accepting the suffering is random and that sometimes bad things happen for no reason at all. It is common to believe people must have done something to deserve what they get, including being accused of a crime. The argument goes: if bad things only happen to those who deserve them and I am a good person, then I can be sure nothing bad will ever happen to me. It is equivalent to: if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. We hear that all too often.

We do not live in a just world. We ought not to ascribe characteristics to people before applying justice to them. When we do ascribe bad things to people before rendering justice, we create a situation where people can be subject to raids, police harassment, inhuman treatment and injustice, purely for what they are. Our society owes many of its liberties to the Magna Carta. We need to remind ourselves of that from time to time and not abandon them.

15 June 2015 will mark 800 years since King John and his Barons agreed to the Magna Carta. As this “great charter” is a fundamental part of the development of liberal societies, FreedomWatch will have much more to say as the anniversary approaches. For your convenience, Senator Leyonjelm’s speech is included below.



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