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A rush to judgment is never a sensible policy

AFTER the handcuffs, the "perp walk", the notorious New York prison, the harsh bail conditions and the probable ruin of a world figure's career, it has turned out that the only prosecution witness in the rape trial of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is wholly unreliable. The prosecutors say she has lied to them about her association with criminals.

Clearly the trial will have to be abandoned. But that will not restore him to the leadership of the IMF. And it has harmed his chances of becoming president of France. French opinion, including that within his own Socialist Party, is divided. Nor does it mean that any of the abundant conspiracy theories are correct. Many people have pointed a finger at President Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr Strauss-Kahn himself is said, weirdly, to have suspected, before the New York incident, that Vladimir Putin might make some move against him.

Almost certainly, we will never know the full truth behind the story. But we can be reasonably sure of two things. One is that the prosecutors who rushed to judgment will suffer in their own careers. The other is the dignity and good sense of Tristane Banon, the woman who considered legal action against Mr Strauss-Kahn after an earlier incident.

Her lawyer, David Koubbi, says that "the presumption of innocence is the most important thing". That applies to the humblest as well as the most powerful, and no country should ever forget it.