One aspect of Defence counsel’s role is to be on guard against the use of language in the justice system that undermines the presumption of innocence.

There is no place for language or terminology that presumes, or in effect, declares with certainty, the guilt of an individual who is facing an allegation of criminal misconduct.

It may be a motion or even a designation of counsel that refers to the ‘date of the offence’ as opposed to ‘the date of the alleged offence’.

It may be a reference to a victim impact statement in Court before the issue of guilt has been decided.

It may be a reference to a complainant as a victim during the trial itself when the accused denies the very act that is the subject of the complaint and identity is not in issue.

The subtext of such language sends a message to anyone charged with a criminal offence that a trial is just a formality and that a conviction is inevitable.

The use of such language is akin to the Judge or the Crown addressing your client as ‘Mr. Guilty’ throughout the course of the trial.

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