Such evidence of previous misconduct which offers proof of an individual’ s bad character serves as a gross violation of an individual’ s right to free trial, as well as the rule that allows for a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Hence, more often than not, such a rule is likely to convict an individual not on the basis of his /her current status but more so, on account of their previous offenses which categorizes them as persons who are capable of committing such an offense. It is also highly likely that the evidence in certain criminal cases, which is based on the bad character of an individual, is likely to weaken the case and tilt the judgment of the jury towards a decision which goes against the accused.
Owing to such reasons, the use of the bad character rule is widely debated and criticized and hence reformed subsequently. It was largely argued that an individual’ s previous misconduct should not act as an obstacle in giving him /her an opportunity for a free and fair trial and they should not be condemned for their past actions.
98 of the criminal justice act 2003 which defines the term bad character has broadened the scope of the term as used in several criminal cases. The rationale behind broadening the scope of this rule was to give prudence to the fact that such matters require an admission of guilt, by the defendant. Such an admission of guilt or innocence can then be used in favor of the individuals to grant them a fair trial and which can be used to prove their character as indicative of culpable behavior.
Substantiation of such facts, which are competent to be used in accordance with the definition of misconduct as defined by Sec. 112 entails the use of prior convictions or acquittals of such individuals, including allegations against them which were never tried or complaints which were never registered against them. It should also be noted, that the evidence of bad character is not solely confined to or restricted to previous convictions or acquittals alone. As clearly stated in the definition in Sec. 112 it also includes other reprehensible behavior as well.
The meaning and relevance of the term other reprehensible behavior have been widely debated by academicians and scholars alike.
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