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Publication

The importance of appearances

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

May 14, 2019 - Presumption of innocence

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. Read the report here and a summary of its conclusions and recommendations here.

French materials

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

As part of the project, Fair Trials carried out research on the presentation of suspects and accused persons in France, both in the media and in the courtroom. Our French national media report identifies whether reporting on criminal investigations is consistent with the presumption of innocence. Read the report in English here and in French here, and the executive summary in English here and in French here.

Our French national courtroom report explores challenges and identifies good practices in the application of measures of restraint in public and the courts. Read the report in English here and in French here.

Rapports en français

Un résumé des conclusions et recommandations du rapport comparatif est accessible en français ici.

Dans le cadre de ce projet, Fair Trials a mené des recherches sur la présentation des suspects, prévenus et accusés en France, dans les médias et dans les salles d'audience. Notre rapport analyse la manière dont les affaires pénales sont relatées dans les médias au regard de la présomption d'innocence. Le rapport est accessible en anglais ici et en français ici. Le résumé du rapport est accessible en anglais ici et en français ici.  

Notre rapport sur la présentation des suspects, prévenus et accusés dans les salles d'audience françaises identifie les difficultés et les bonnes pratiques dans l'application des mesures de contrainte (menottes, entraves, boxes vitrés) en public et devant les tribunaux. Le rapport est accessible en anglais ici et en français ici.

Other materials

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee produced a regional comparative report and a practical toolkit on the use of restraints for police and judicial officers, based on the examples and best practices compiled in the different countries during the research. The report and toolkit to be available soon.

You can access the Media Governance & Industries Research Lab’s (University of Vienna) comparative media report and the toolkit for journalists reporting on suspects here.

 

Watch our short film below, where we share the stories of Nahuel, János and Robert to show what can happen when the right to be presumed innocent isn't respected.

 

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.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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