Woolmington v DPP  UKHL 1 is a landmark case in English criminal law that established the legal principle of the presumption of innocence.
The case involved a man named Reginald Woolmington, who was charged with the murder of his wife. At trial, Woolmington argued that the shooting had been an accident, but the jury found him guilty of murder. Woolmington appealed to the House of Lords.
The House of Lords held that the trial judge had misdirected the jury on the issue of the burden of proof. The Court ruled that in criminal cases, the burden of proof is always on the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and it is not for the defendant to prove his innocence.
In reaching its decision, the House of Lords emphasised that the presumption of innocence is a vital principle in any civilised system of justice. The court stated that "Throughout the web of the English criminal law, one golden thread is always to be seen, that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt subject to what I have already said as to the defence of insanity and subject also to any statutory exception."
The principle of the presumption of innocence has since become a cornerstone of criminal justice systems around the world. It ensures that the state cannot arbitrarily deprive individuals of their liberty or impose criminal sanctions without first proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
You can learn more about this topic and other case law with our Criminal Law notes.