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The Judicial House of Lords 1876–2009$
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Louis Blom-Cooper QC, Brice Dickson, and Gavin Drewry

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199532711

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532711.001.0001

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Fair Trial: ‘One Golden Thread’

Fair Trial: ‘One Golden Thread’

(p.613) 33 Fair Trial: ‘One Golden Thread’
The Judicial House of Lords 1876–2009

Anthony Hooper

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a description of the case of Reginald Woolmington, aged twenty-one, a dairy man who killed his newly wedded wife, Violet, aged seventeen and a half. This case is analysed against the backdrop of the Viscount Sankey's famous quote: ‘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. . . No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained.’ The chapter argues that the golden thread is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that it is difficult to understand the importance at the time of Woolmington, not only in England but in the numerous dominions and colonies which then formed part of the British Empire. The requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases was embedded in the laws of all those countries which then formed part of that Empire. However, it is shown that Parliament is less attached.

Keywords:   House of Lords, Reginald Woolmington, golden thread, judicial invtervention, proof, reasonable doubt, Viscount Sankey

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