Dalhousie Law Journal


Criminal law, reasonable man, Anglo-American legal system, civil disputes, rational decisional process, judicial mind, preponderance of evidence, balance of probabilities, burden of proof, reasonable doubt.


Lawyers pride themselves on being men of reason. After all, they postulate, it is the "reasonable man" who is enshrined at the apex of the Anglo-American legal system in the adjudication of civil disputes; it is the legally trained mind that proves so finely honed a tool in the area of problem solving in private practice; the rational decisional process is the hallmark of the judicial mind. Where the life or liberty of an individual is in contention this expert "sense" of reason is brought one step further - the criminal law, with few exceptions, will not countenance a mere "preponderance of evidence" or "balance of probabilities" in the establishment of the burden of proof; there must be a greater degree of certitude. This latter goal is attained through the application of the doctrine of "reasonable doubt". The parameters with which we need be concerned, at least in the context of the imprecise "social organism" that constitutes law, are thus obvious. It is something less than absolute certainty. 1 The necessary legal goal will have been attained once any arbiters in the criminal decisional process have reached an abiding conviction to a moral certainty as to the guilt of an accused person.