No one is bound to criminate himself.
No one can be compelled to criminate himself, that is, to accuse or confess himself guilty of any crime ; but if he do so voluntarily, the confession is admissible ; and this is illustrated by the common case of a magistrate being required to caution a prisoner, before taking from him any admission or confession of guilt he may feel desirous of making, that such confession or admission will be used in evidence against him. So, the answer of a prisoner, after his arrest, to a question asked by a police- constable, is inadmissible as evidence against him ; for, the officer in such case has no authority to ask any question tending to criminate the prisoner. Also, where, on an indictment for forgery, it appeared that the prisoner, on the discovery of the forgery, being suspected, was asked to write his name for the purpose of comparison, and did so ; it was held that his signature was not admissible on the part of the prosecution, to prove that the instrument forged was in his handwriting.
It has been for ages a principle of jurisprudence in this country, that no man shall be compelled to answer upon oath to a matter by which he may accuse himself of any crime ; and, strictly speaking, the rule holds good at the present day. And experience has shown that if this rule did not exist, many persons would be found willing, for reward or favour, to accuse themselves of crimes of which they had never been guilty.
The old rule in this respect has, however, in modern times been somewhat relaxed, and a difference has been made between private crimes, or those arising out of commerce or the private relations of society, and public crimes, or those relating strictly to the general welfare of the state.
As the law stands, there is one branch of compulsory evidence which is in its nature civil, and another criminal. Thus, a man may be compelled to make answer to a bill in Chancery, and his admissions made in such answer may be given in evidence against him ; so may also the evidence given by a witness on a trial in a civil suit. And as to criminal matters, a man may be compelled to make answers in the Bankruptcy and County Courts, which may render him liable to criminal proceedings.
By various statutes, a witness cannot refuse to answer a question relevant to the issue, on the ground only that the answer may subject him to a civil suit : nor, if he be objected to on the ground that the verdict would be admissible in evidence for, or against him ; but, in that case, the verdict shall not be admissible for, or against him.
So, in civil proceedings, husband and wife are competent and compellable to give evidence for and against each other ; but it is otherwise with them, as to criminal proceedings, or proceedings for adultery. Yet, where two prisoners were tried for a joint offence, and one pleaded guilty, and it was proposed to call the wife of the prisoner who had pleaded guilty, on the part of the prosecution, to give evidence against the other prisoner ; it was held that the evidence was admissible.
It may be stated broadly that no person can be compelled to give evidence subjecting him to criminal proceedings, excepting those of the quasi-criminal nature before alluded to.
Questions as to privileged communications may be considered to come within the meaning of this rule, so far as to their being in the nature of compulsory evidence.
In India, under Article 20 (3) of the Constitution, the defendant has the right against self-incrimination, but witnesses are not given the same right. A defendant must be informed of their rights before making any statements that may incriminate them. Defendants must not be compelled to give any statements.
Article 20(3) reads that No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
Wing. Max. 486 ; Grant a. Jackson, Peake, 203 ; Robson v. Alexander, 1 Moore & P. 448 ; Millward v. Forbes, 4 Esp. 172 ; Collett v. Lord Keith, 4 Esp. 212 ; R. v. Merceron, 2 Stark. 366 ; 46 Geo. 3, c. 37 ; 6 & 7 Vict, c. 98 ; 9 & 10 Vict. c. 95 ; 14 & 15 Vict. u . 99 ; 16 & 17 Vict. c. 83 ; Reg. o. Bodkin, 9 Cox Crim. Gas. 403; Ex parte Tear, re Tear, 10 L. T. (N.S.) 878 ; Reg. v. Aldridge, 3 P. & F. 781 ; Reg. v. Thompson, 3 F. & F. 821 ; Reg. l. Mick, 3 F. & F. 822 ; Wenlworlh v. Lloyd, 10 L. T. (N.S.) 767.