BY LAURA FITZGIBBON
WHEN DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL?
A right to a fair trial does not only apply to criminal offences (like violence, sexual offences, theft and property damage). You have the right to a fair trial for all trials relating to all law. Other law that might affect you is, for example, law to do with your job and ownership of your house.
WHAT DOES A RIGHT TO ‘A FAIR TRIAL’ MEAN?
It means that if someone says that you have done something that is against the law, then you have the right to a fair trial to find out if it is true.
A trial is where you go to court and a judge, or a judge and jury, is given information about what the other person says that you have done and then decides whether it is true. If they decide that it is true, they can punish you. This punishment could be something like being sent to prison or having to pay money.
A trial is a fair trial if:
• It is not biased. This means that no one who knows you should make a decision in your trial.
• If it takes place a reasonable amount of time after you are accused. You should not have to wait a very long time before your trial so that you know what the decision is. Also, if you are being held in a prison before you have a trial in a criminal offence, this means that you won’t be kept in prison for too long before your trial.
• You have the right to be listened to in court. It is not only the person who accuses you of doing something wrong that should be allowed to give information and evidence to the judge or jury.
• The person in charge (the judge) is qualified and trained to do that job.
• It is trial where you are innocent until proven guilty. This means that the person who says that you have done something wrong must prove that you did. You should never have to prove that you did not do something wrong.
The right to a fair trial also means that you have the right to be told if you have been accused of doing something illegal. This is so you can attend the trial and be listened to if you want to.
It also means that when a decision has been made in a trial, the person who the decision was made about has a right to know the reasons why it has been made.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
If you did not have the right to a fair trial, then it would be easy to be punished for something that you did not do.