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This expression connotes that one is willing to not insist on accusing someone of a mistake despite most evidence pointing to that someone as being responsible. As in a legal proceeding where the jury feel there is a reasonable doubt the defendant transgressed the law
Or.
More colloquially, when not understanding why someone took a certain action or made a decision that impacted others negatively, this expression means one doesn't impute bad motive on the someone.
For example, someone says something very insensitive to you that hurts you, it might be a delicate situation or something very personal. If you give them the benefit of the doubt you don't feel they had bad motive but were trying to help or encourage.

How can I express this in Chinese?

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I think in law, there is this principle "疑点利益归于被告", meaning to give the accused the benefit of doubt (or innocence is presumed unless proven otherwise). In general, 姑且不计/原谅/相信 can be used when someone tentatively stop faulting, forgive or trust another party. –  Question Overflow Aug 28 '13 at 8:15
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The idiom means "to decide that you will believe someone, even though you are not sure that what the person is saying is true" (dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/american-english/…), which contradicts your "despite most evidence pointing to that someone as being responsible" –  congliu Aug 28 '13 at 8:52
    
@QuestionOverflow in mainland China, this legal terminology seems "疑罪从无". –  Stan Aug 28 '13 at 10:42
    
@congliu You're right. And that is why I said "connotes". For example, You go to the bathroom and as you go in you pass Bob going out. The toilet wasn't flushed and a logical assumption is that Bob didn't flush it. Because you know Bob is a usually a clean person, you won't accuse him or make a deal about it, thereby giving him the benefit of the doubt since you didn't actually witness him use the toilet and not flush. –  tao Aug 28 '13 at 11:48
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@Stan it seems to be '无罪推定' in legal space and '善意推断' in everyday expressions. Personally I've not heard 疑罪从无 before and it takes time to understand it upon hearing. –  NS.X. Aug 28 '13 at 18:42
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted
  1. I think "寧縱勿枉" best fits the description.
    It literally means not enforcing justice ("縱" as in "縱容") for fear of accusing someone wrongly ("枉" as in "冤枉"). The opposite phrase is "寧枉勿縱". Note that the sayer does not necessarily forgive the suspect here.

    • 沒有實質證據證明銀包是小明偷的,寧縱勿枉,此事就算了吧。 (There's no direct evidence proving Ming stole the wallet, giving him the benefit of doubt, let's be done with this.)
  2. Gimme some time to think about it. :-P.
    I think "無心之失" is applicable for the second description.
    It means one is not intended for the mistake made.

    • 雖然他這樣做是不對,但我相信只是 無心之失,你不要責怪他吧。 (It's not right for him to have done that, but I beleive he doesn't mean it, don't blame him, okay?)

EDIT: added examples, sorry that the English translation may not be the best.
The OP also updated the question so I think the answer here is more appropriate.

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寧縱勿枉 is used when you are UNSURE whether the person is responsible or not. The OP asks about the case where you KNOW he is responsible but willing to FORGIVE him. –  Farticle Pilter Aug 28 '13 at 6:54
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寧縱勿枉 fits the idiom "give someone the benefit of the doubt", which means it is UNSURE (dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/american-english/…) –  congliu Aug 28 '13 at 8:54
    
@leesei, Can you give these in a sentence please? –  Growler Aug 29 '13 at 15:50
    
I think this answer does an excellent job addressing the meanings that the OP was really looking for. +1 for persistence and updating your answer as more information became available! –  Stumpy Joe Pete Aug 30 '13 at 4:03
    
@StumpyJoePete Thanks. Glad to help people interested in Chinese here. I've learn something from these questions as well. –  leesei Aug 30 '13 at 4:12
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Are you sure they can be expressed with the same phrases?

  1. I think 既往不咎 is appropriate here. It means: Since your mistake is already committed, I will just forgive you and let it go.
  2. 不知者无罪. Another possible sentence goes like: 虽然我不清楚你为何这么做,但是我相信你的本意不是如此(如此 here means 伤害别人)。
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