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Onus of Proof Principle

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Posted 11 September 2015 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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There is a principle of logic that says that the onus of proof is on the prosecution. The onus of proof is not on the accused.

The accused does not need to prove his/her innocence. The person who is making (or implying) an accusation, is the one who must prove their case.

Paula Radcliffe is suffering from implied allegations of misdeeds. Paula is making a tactical error, in that she is trying to prove her innocence. This is an error, both tactically and logically.

Logically it is an error, because you cannot prove a negative. Since, if nothing happened, then it leaves no clues. Only if something happened does it leave clues. You cannot prove that you didn't do something wrong.

For example, if I said to you, "I accuse you of being a shoplifter who has never been caught. Prove that you are not."

Then you would not be able to prove that you have not ever been a shoplifter. I could say that the absence of evidence of you shoplifting, merely goes to show how skilful you are at avoiding detection.

It is impossible to prove innocence. That is why, in our law courts, you don't have to prove yourself innocent. The prosecution has to prove you guilty, beyond all reasonable doubt.

In the press and on the TV, they break this rule and make assertions, which tantamount to allegations, that X is "Linked to drugs".

The implication is left unsupported and the victim, the athlete, then feels forced to come out and try to deny the allegation.

Paula tried to prove her innocence. But in the act of protesting her innocence, she unwittingly reinforces in the public consciousness, the connection between drugs and her name. Her denial then becomes more fodder for the press to print the following day, to comment on and to further fuel the speculation that she may have something to hide.

They say her denials do not prove her innocence and so that again implies guilt. This is unfair, unjust and illogical.

Those people who are the victims of such smears should invoke the 'onus of proof principle'.

They should not attempt to prove their innocence; which cannot be done. They should challenge their accusers to put up, or shut up.

They should assert their innocence without any attempt to prove it. They should threaten legal action against anyone who claims or suggests, without evidence, that they have committed wrong doing.

Paula, please don't play the press by their rules. Please don't try to prove your innocence - you are innocent until you have been proven guilty.

It is up to your accusers to prove you guilty; not for you to prove you're not guilty. Paula, please apply the onus of proof principle to your accusers.

Stay strong.

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