The Rights of the Accused
In English-speaking countries, the rights of an accused person are taken very seriously. Over many centuries, laws evolved in such a way that people could not be arrested or chargedwithout a very good reason.
Of course, every country needs to enforce its laws. This means that police officers are needed, and so are “prosecutors”-the lawyers whose job is to make criminal charges against people who break the laws, and to prove that those charges are true. However, it is very important that people’s freedoms are not taken away wrongly. People should not be punished unfairly, and people who are accused of crimes must have the opportunity to defend themselves.
In some parts of the world, people can be arrested and imprisoned for long periods of time, without any criminal charges being made against them. One of the most important principles of justice in English-speaking countries is that a person cannot be held by the police unless that person is charged with a crime. This principle is known by the Latin term, “habeas corpus.” According to the idea of habeas corpus, the police are not allowed to detain a person for more than a certain period of time (usually, twenty-four hours), unless some charge is made against the person. A judge will order the release of a person who is not charged with a crime.
Another important feature of justice systems in most English-speaking countries is that accused individuals have the right to be represented by a lawyer. Most accused people want to hire an expert lawyer. However, even if a person cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the criminal court must provide a lawyer who will represent that person. The lawyer for an accused person is required to defend that person as thoroughly as possible.
One of the most important aspects of justice systems in the United States and the British Commonwealth is that an accused person must be fully informed of any charges made against them. Also, any evidence that will be used to show the accused person’s guilt must be shared with the accused person and with that person’s lawyer. In this way, accused persons can challenge the truth of any evidence that will be used against them. Similarly, any person who acts as a witness against an accused person can be cross-examined by the accused person’s lawyer. This means that the statements of a witness can be challenged by the accused person.
Another important element of most English-speaking justice systems is that evidence must be obtained fairly. Police officers cannot simply enter a person’s home to look for evidence of a crime. They must first have a good reason to believe that a crime has been committed, and they must obtain permission from a judge to enter the person’s property. This permission is called a “search warrant.” Because search warrants are required, people are free from arbitrary invasions of their property by the police.
Finally, another important aspect of most English-speaking justice systems is that trials must be held in public, where other citizens can watch the trial. An accused person is not tried secretly. Moreover, as discussed in another passage, the accused person has the right to be tried by a jury of other free citizens. All of these rules ensure that order can be maintained without taking away the freedom of innocent people.