The appeal court said that in criminal cases where it is necessary for the prosecution to prove intention, they must always do just that. Intention can never be presumed, subject to being disproved by the person accused. Hence the phrase that everyone is ‘innocent unless proven guilty’.

Doesn't the bolded clause contradict the other sentences? The first sentence connotes that intention is subject to being proved by the prosecutor. Since the accused person is presumed guilty, he/she has to prove or disprove nothing?

Source: P68, How the Law Works, Gary Slapper

  • 1
    The accused person is not presumed guilty.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 15:31
  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the interpretation of legalese, not English.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


The logic is this:

  1. The accused is presumed not guilty
  2. included in that, the accused is presumed not to have had a criminal intention
  3. It is the duty of the prosecution to offer evidence (proof) of several things to show that the accused is guilty, including evidence that he had criminal intention
  4. The accused then has the right to offer evidence that he did not have criminal intention and is not guilty
  5. If the prosecution does not prove intent, not guilty; and even if the prosecution gives some evidence of intent, but the accused gives better evidence of no intent, not guilty

(There are other elements in proof of guilt, aside from intent, and how much evidence each side needs to show is a more complicated issue, and about law, not language)


Intention can never be presumed, subject to being disproved by the person accused.

The part of that sentence after the comma is an additional explanation or amplification of the first part. It could be rephrased as

Intention can never be presumed; that is, it is not something required to be disproved by the person accused.

The quoted paragraph is saying that the prosecution has the burden of proof of intention to commit a crime, and that in the absence of proof, intention is presumed to not exist.

  • Or at least that's what it should be saying. It seems to be a tortured construction.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 6, 2014 at 16:39
  • 1
    @virmaior: It's slightly "dense" phrasing, as we see by comparing it with jwpat7's more "accessible" version. But it's hardly "tortuous", and it says exactly what it wants to say succinctly and unambiguously. This is a carefully-considered judgement made by smart guys for the future consideration of other smart guys - their target audience certainly isn't people with less-than-average language and comprehension skills. Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 23:50