By Chief Justice Brian Martin*
The High Court has acknowledged that the stand taken by the court with respect to directions concerning proof beyond reasonable doubt is an “extreme and exceptional” one. It has been said that the expression “beyond reasonable doubt” is an expression “used by ordinary people and is well understood by the average [person] in the community”. What does beyond reasonable doubt mean? Since the 1971 decision of the High Court in Green, differences of opinions have emerged at intermediate appellate court level. Why is it that judges believe it is an expression used and well understood by “ordinary people”? The experience of trial judges and research suggests otherwise. Is it time to permit expanded explanations that provide genuine assistance within the current formula or to follow the lead of other jurisdictions and introduce a more modern and readily understood concept that requires the jury to be “sure” of guilt?
The full article can be accessed here: “Beyond reasonable doubt” (2010) 1 NTLJ 225.
*Chief Justice Brian Martin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.