Since the 18th Century, UK criminal courts have required proof 'beyond reasonable doubt' to convict.  But with convictions for rape falling, now less than 1% of accusations, there are a growing number who argue this core judicial principle is mistaken.   We do not require such a strong burden of proof in civil courts which instead apply the principle of 'the balance of probabilities'. 'Beyond reasonable doubt' has been adopted on the Blackstone principle that 'it is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer'.  But is it better that a hundred guilty persons escape?

Should we end ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ for sex crimes? Should we adopt civil court levels of proof, perhaps in combination with lower sentences, but with the benefit of far higher levels of conviction?    Or is it essential that we retain the principle of ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ for crimes that have such a profound effect on those found guilty as well as the victims?

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