Speedy trial is a human right under which it is asserted that a government prosecutor may not delay the trial of a criminal suspect arbitrarily and indefinitely. Otherwise, the power to impose such delays would allow prosecutors to effectively send anyone to jail for an arbitrary length of time. In jurisdictions with strong rule of law, the requirement of a "speedy trial" forces prosecutors to diligently build cases within a reasonable amount of time commensurate with the complexity and heinousness of the crimes of which suspects are accused. It is based on the notion that long-term incarceration is to be normally restricted to situations where a judge or jury determines a suspect has committed a crime specifically enumerated in a statute.
This right is codified in fundamental legal documents in several jurisdictions, including:
- Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights
- Speedy Trial Clause of the United States Constitution
- Section Eleven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
In English law, this right was developed by the Assize of Clarendon in 1166 (a judge would be summoned if one was not immediately available) and Magna Carta in 1215 ("To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.").
In June 1776, a "speedy trial" provision was explicitly included in the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
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