Does “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” Apply in Queensland?

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a statement you may have heard in movies and wondered if this principle applies in real legal situations. The answer is emphatically ‘yes’. However, there are layered questions in this concept, such as the rights you are entitled to, whether your defence lawyer has to believe you’re innocent, and what happens if you are actually guilty. 

Your rights in QLD

As Queenslanders, we have a number of legislated human rights. One of the rights we enjoy is the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, according to law. This means that a person charged with a criminal offence is entitled to receive, without discrimination:

  • the particulars of the charges against them
  • the nature and reason for the charges
  • time to prepare a defence.

Another basic human right in Queensland is that a defendant cannot be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess their guilt.  This means if a defendant chooses to plead “not guilty”, the police must prove the person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, by pointing to relevant and admissible evidence.

Does my defence lawyer need to believe I’m innocent? 

Despite what the police brief says, there are many times where a client will “maintain their innocence” by instructing me that:

  • it “wasn’t them
  • they “didn’t do it
  • they “were provoked” (when the defence is available)
  • they were “acting in self-defence
  • The police cannot actually prove the elements that make up a charge.

No matter my feelings about a case, if a client instructs that they are not guilty of an offence, I must put aside any assumptions, and advance their interests.

As a defence lawyer, I feel how high the stakes are. I know that one mistake could result in our client spending time in prison. So I take every case very seriously and will always fight for our clients. If the person is considered innocent until proven guilty by law, then I apply the same standard in my relationship with them

What if I tell you I’m guilty?

If my client has told me they are guilty, but wish to maintain a “not guilty” plea in court, then I must represent them whilst also not deceiving or knowingly and recklessly misleading the court. As a solicitor I must follow my client’s lawful, proper and competent instructions. However my primary duty is to the court and the administration of justice. 

In these cases, all defence lawyers are extremely limited in how they can run the case as they are bound by their commitment to both the client and the court. However, it is the defendant’s human right to take the matter to trial, so all solicitors must put aside their personal feelings and comply with the client’s lawful instructions. Also, there are rules that say I cannot simply stop helping a client if I dislike the information I discover.

Defence limitations when you are guilty

When a defendant has told the lawyer they are guilty but wish to put the prosecution to proof, the defence lawyer cannot:

  • allow the defendant to give evidence that he did not do it
  • falsely suggest that another person committed the offence charged
  • set up an affirmative case inconsistent with the confession the defendant made to the lawyer.

Defence with RK Law

At RK Law we are able to represent you for almost any criminal charge, including: 

  • Murder or manslaughter
  • Drugs (Possession/Supply/Trafficking/Utensils)
  • Assaults and violent offences
  • Robbery
  • Sexual offences
  • Public nuisance
  • Theft or shoplifting
  • Fraud
  • Property Damage
  • Firearms and weapons

In line with our ‘no surprises’ policy we’ll always provide a clear estimate of fees after our first meeting so that you can move forward with confidence. For criminal law clients, we provide fixed-fee representation.

If you need a defence lawyer to stand by you and fight for justice in your situation, then we’d love to help. Find out more about RK Law’s legal services or contact the team today.

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