As someone who intends to share the same career as Clint Rickards I have to say I am uncomfortable hearing that the NZ Law Society has granted Rickards a certificate of character to practice law. I am uncomfortable because the legal system forces us into an absurd position that everyone knows is farcical and yet it must be maintained in the name of justice. Let me explain.
We know that:
1. A person is innocent of a crime until proven guilty.
2. Rickards was not proven guilty of rape.
3. Nicholas claimed that Rickards did rape her.
4. Perjury is a crime.
5. Nicholas has not been found guilty of perjury (or even tried).
The problem is that if you accept 1. then you are required (by 2.) to conclude that Rickards is innocent and therefore the allegation made in 3. is false.
However, if you accept 1. then you are required (by 4. and 5.) to assume that Nicholas is innocent and therefore the allegation made in 3. is true.
Therefore, acceptance of the presumption of innocence requires us to believe both that Rickards did and did not rape Nicholas and it requires us to believe both that Nicholas did and did not commit perjury.
Obviously this is rationally impossible. We know that it cannot be true that both parties are innocent or that both parties are guilty.
The presumption of innocence requires us to believe such nonsense. Given we are talking about serious things such as rape and false allegations thereof, we are extremely uncomfortable adopting positions we know are false (and we know it is false that he both raped and did not rape and she perjured and did not perjure).
So I am right to not feel comfortable about accepting Rickards’ innocence even though legally I know I must and I am uncomfortable about branding Nicholas a liar because at least with Rickards he was tried, Nicholas has not been, (despite what some idiots think).
The problems with the presumption of innocence do not stop at logical absurdities. Another problem is that to claim someone is innocent under the adversarial system, simply means they have not been proved guilty. This is not the same thing as saying they have been proved innocent. “Not guilty” means that the high evidential standard was not met; it is possible to reasonably doubt the accusation. Of course the accusation could be more probable than not, it could be highly probable, it could be completely ridiculous to entertain but it is not certain. Basically a “not guilty” verdict under the adversarial system simply tells us where the benefit of the doubt should lie; it does not remove the doubt.
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