Basic Principles of Canadian Criminal Law

The criminal justice system is built on a few important principles. B.C. shares these basic principles with all common law criminal justice systems around the world. 

Presumption of Innocence - Every criminal case begins with the presumption that the accused person is innocent. It is up to Crown counsel, representing the community, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime.

Due Process – Due process is related to the presumption of innocence. It involves a thorough examination of the facts of each case - and recognition of the importance of protecting the legal rights of those charged with criminal offences.

Independent Judiciary – Anyone accused of a crime has the right to have their case decided by fair and impartial judges, without interference of any kind, from any source. This is the concept of judicial independence. While judicial decisions may not result in everyone being happy, the justice system is founded on public confidence that decisions - whether popular or not - are made after a full and fair hearing and without outside influence.

Openness and Accessibility of Court - Only through an open and public process can the public have confidence in the justice system and be satisfied that parties are treated fairly.

Equality Before the Law - All people in Canada are equal under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.