Citation: [1935] UKHL J0405-1

Date of Judgement: Friday 5 April 1935

Bench ( House of Lords): Lord Hewart (L.C.J.), Lord Atkin, Lord Tomlin, and Lord Wright.


Woolmington’s Case is pre-eminent as far as the burden of proof is concerned. It is said that “the presumption of innocence is like a golden thread in the Criminal Justice System.” 

In this case, Woolmington a 21-year-old farmer from Dorset married Kathleen Woolmington.  On November 22, 1934, Kathleen left for her mother’s house, leaving Woolmington. To get his wife back, Woolmington stole a gun and went to his wife’s house 

In his way, he tried to threaten his wife by saying that he will kill himself, fortuitously he shot his wife, and she died on the spot.


1) Whether proving beyond a reasonable doubt is rooted in the Presumption of Innocence?

2) How does the defence of alibi give rise to reasonable doubt?

Held – Swift J. along with other juries held that the onus to prove not guilty should be on the shoulders of the accused, however when Woolmington appealed, Avory J. Stated that Prosecution has to prove that the accused is guilty or not relying on Foster’s Crown Law.

This resulted in the acquittal of Woolmington. 

Personal Opinion: – 

To constitute a Crime, Mens Rea and Actus Reus both are required. In this case, Woolmington claimed that he did not mean to kill his wife rather he was just trying to threaten her at that time and accidentally he shot her. In my view, the decision by Avory J. was appropriately given as the onus always lies with the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Case analysis by – Sanyogita

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