May v O’Sullivan [1955] HCA 38

ON 18 JULY 1955, the High Court of Australia delivered May v O’Sullivan [1955] HCA 38; (1955) 92 CLR 654 (18 July 1955).

This decision sets out a procedural rule concerning the prosecution’s burden and onus of proof in criminal proceedings. There are two limbs.

The first limb: At the close of the prosecution case, the defendant may make a submission, without calling evidence, that there is “there is no case to answer”. The question to be determined is whether or not the defendant ought to be lawfully convicted on the prosecution’s evidence alone.

The second limb: The question to be determined, as a question of fact, is whether or not on the whole of the evidence before it the court is satisfied of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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