Doctoral Research Forum Blog Series: Part VI

Presumptions in Dutch money laundering cases: a presumption of innocence or of guilt?

by Tessa van der Rijst

source: Pixabay 

In criminal cases, a judge can never be completely sure as to whether the accused is guilty or not. Therefore, a balance must be found between the risk of acquitted guilty persons (false negatives) and the risk of convicted innocent persons (false positives). In theory, the balance is in favor of the acquitted guilty. A famous remark, made by William Blackstone, is that it is ‘better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffers’. This is also referred to as the presumption of innocence and can be interpreted as that it is better to acquit ten guilty persons than to convict one innocent person. After all, criminal convictions and the (possibly) subsequent sentences can have a large impact on people’s lives. Therefore, it should be justified and not imposed on people frivolously. This is especially the case for imprisonment, but fines can be very impactful as well. It is hard to determine how this theory is put into practice and what the specific acceptance ratio is: this may be valued differently by different people and can dependent on the circumstances of a case, the time, culture and place.More...