John Murray v. the United Kingdom

European Court of Human Rights
8 February 1996


The applicant, Mr. Murray, was a suspected terrorist. He was arrested and tried in court. When he was requested to account for his presence at the house where he was arrested, Mr. Murray did not explain anything neither to the police nor the court. The national court warned Mr. Murray that his refusal to answer the questions might be taken into account when the decision about his guilt will be made. Mr. Murray was later found guilty and convicted.


As the national court drew conclusions from his silence, Mr. Murray alleged that there had been a violation of the right to silence and the right not to incriminate oneself contrary to his rights to fair trial. 

Court's ruling

Right to remain silent under police questioning and the privilege against self-incrimination were generally recognised international standards which lie at the heart of the notion of a fair procedure. Court stated that an accused could not be convicted solely or mainly on account of his/her silence. However, these immunities could not prevent that the accused’s silence, in situations which clearly call for an explanation from him, be taken into account in assessing the persuasiveness of the evidence adduced by the prosecution. Since there were substantial amount of evidence collected against Mr. Murray, the drawing of inferences from his refusal to provide an explanation for his presence in the house in Court’s view was a matter of common sense and could not be regarded as unfair or unreasonable in the circumstances. The Court also found that drawing of reasonable inferences from Mr. Murray‘s behaviour did not have the effect of shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defence so as to infringe the principle of the presumption of innocence. Therefore the Court did not consider that the criminal proceedings were unfair and there was no violation of the presumption of innocence and right to remain silent.

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Last updated 17/01/2024