The importance of appearances

How suspects and accused persons are presented in the courtroom, in public and in the media


The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that any person accused of committing a crime is to be presumed innocent until they are proven guilty according to law. It has been described as a “golden thread” running through criminal law.

This broad principle includes a range of rights relating to how suspects are presented in public: public statements made by public authorities before the outcome of the case; the use of physical restraints in courtrooms or in public settings (such as at the time of arrest); and the content and tone of press coverage about ongoing criminal cases. The manner in which suspects are presented to the public can have severe consequences for the fairness of proceedings, the integrity of the justice system, and can undermine the dignity of people going through the criminal justice process.

On this page, you can find a number publications and materials that were produced as part of the project “The Importance of Appearances: How Suspects and Accused Persons are Presented in the Courtroom, in Public and in the Media”, coordinated by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee with partners Aditus Foundation (Malta), Fair Trials, Human Right House, Zagreb (Croatia), Mérték (Hungary), Rights International Spain, and the University of Vienna.

A comparative report ‘Innocent until proven guilty? The presentation of suspects in criminal proceedings‘ seeks to identify key threats to the presumption of innocence, and recommends possible solutions.

French materials

Find a summary of the comparative report’s conclusions and recommendations in French here

This project was funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme (2014–2020). The content of the publications represents the views of the authors only and is their sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.