Remember... innocent until proven guilty...

LEGAL QUESTION Cars on sale
LEGAL QUESTION Cars on sale
Yachts taking part in last years Clipper Round the World Race			             	  Picture: onEdition

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Have your say

Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q I bought a used car from a dealer which was subsequently proved to have had 60,000 miles wiped off the clock. Trading standards took him to court, but despite the car being worth almost £2,000 less than I paid for it and a previous conviction, a solicitor helped him get off. Where’s the justice?

CP (e-mail)

A I understand how you must feel about this but in English law an accused person is presumed innocent until proved guilty. Nowadays most victims of crime understand criminals don’t immediately own up to wrongdoing. Long gone are the days when the criminal classes looked upon being caught as an occupational hazard.

All systems of justice are imperfect. Sometimes a verdict may be rough justice because there is always a chance the guilty may go free.

It may surprise you but criminal prosecutors don’t have to engage in a search for the truth. Their job is to get a conviction by putting a better interpretation of guilt on the evidence than the defence, and making it compellingly plausible.

The defence tries to put a different spin on the prosecution’s facts that is sufficiently persuasive to obtain a not guilty verdict.

Between these two extremes, the truth emerges. That’s how our judicial system works.

But part of the price to be paid means to have it any other way risks the presumption of innocence becoming a presumption of guilt. It really would be a sorry day for the impartial dispensation of criminal justice if we decided an accused was guilty before they even came to trial.

Q I came across an old life insurance policy in my mother’s papers after she died. Despite writing to the company I can’t get a reply because the insurer is some obscure company that is no longer exists. Can you advise please?

BE (e-mail)

A To trace a life insurance company that may have changed its name or owner the Financial Services Authority (www.fsa.gov.uk/consumerinformation) can usually help. Call 0845 606 1234 for assistance or use the online advanced search tool. For an instant online search try the Policy Detective free to use site at http://policydetective.co.uk/privacyPolicy.jsp

If you really aren’t sure of the name of the original insurance company, ring the unclaimed assets register on 0844 481 81 80.

SMALL PRINT

Richard Thomson has worked for leading UK and European companies as a market research analyst, and in consumer education and protection with trading standards. Write or email him with your consumer questions or to fight for your rights at richardjthomson1@sky.com. An individual answer cannot be guaranteed. Replies are intended to give help or advice, not a complete statement of law.