Innocent Until Proved Guilty

The media have a very important role to play in our society – protecting our democracy, keeping us aware of issues we should be concerned about, etc.

However, there is a flip side. Sometimes people can be accused of a crime, and before ever their case reaches the courts, the public get the impression that they are guilty. It’s a case of trial by media. It is crucial to justice that we remember: “A person is innocent until proved guilty.”  But in the modern news-entertainment media some people are guilty until proved innocent. 

In one sense it makes no difference whether a person is actually innocent or guilty. They are being convicted anyway. Covering themselves legally with words like “alleged” the media are able to “entertain” the viewers by implying he was a “horrible fiend.”

In the old days it would just have been local people who might have assumed a person’s guilt. That’s bad enough. But nowadays the whole country is likely to conclude they are guilty without trial. How devastating it must have been for innocent people who experience this. 

I hate to think of people’s lives being ruined by false accusation and by conviction without trial. I’ve seen too much of it over the years.

Little wonder, therefore, Jesus and the apostles are clear about how we should respond to allegations or suspicions. According to the teaching of Jesus:

We should not jump to conclusions about a person’s guilt, i.e. be judgmental. We should carefully suspend judgment and refuse to “convict” them without trial, even in conversation. 

We should directly approach someone who appears to have done wrong to hear their defence or explanation and to assess the truth.

This is the Christian approach and it means we avoid becoming slanderers. The Bible is quite blunt about slanderers. It says a slanderer is a fool (Proverbs 10:18) who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10) and who should be avoided (1 Corinthians 5:11). 


© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction