Alagi Yorro Jallow

The presumption of innocence is essential — but it should never mean presuming the guilt of the accused.

The Gambian justice system, we grant a presumption of innocence in our legal system, but an accuser with a case can pursue it. Whatever the facts may be of the allegations against Mai Fatty.

When allegations like these surface against a high-profile man, it’s hard to avoid hearing the phrase “he’s innocent until proven guilty!” from many commentators. But is this really an objective reading of the law?

Considering this, when we declare “innocent until proven guilty!” we are naively trusting in the ability of the law to deliver a just outcome. The presumption of innocence is one of the basic tenets of our legal system, but its use within public discourse is misunderstood.

In championing the presumption of innocence for the defendant, there’s a tendency to descend upon the accused, and try to destroy their character and credibility. Instead, our immediate reaction when accused do come forward should not be to question his reliability, but to listen – which, as a society, we have a hard time doing.

Presuming the innocence of the accused does not mean demonizing the accused. Presuming the innocence of the accused does not mean refusing to listen to him.

Even a failure to convict does not “prove” innocence or discredit the initial accusation. So, it’s about time the presumption of innocence is being respected as a front but not blaming the accused or the defendant.