“In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?” St. Augustine
St. Augustine in Book IV of The City of God, relates the story about the pirate who had been seized and brought before Alexander the Great. The cheeky pirate asks the King what is the real difference between a pirate stealing with one ship and an Emperor doing the same with a fleet of ships. The pirate argued that they were both thieves, one no different from the other , only by scale. The pirate had a point. Whether done by a King or a pirate, looting people or denying them of justice are nothing but organised robbers.
Recently I looked in amazement at the headlines in the daily Gleaner and had to put my coffee down in order to really see if the caption represented the article in substance. The caption read “Chief Justice Urges Offenders to Plead Guilty to Ease Backlog”. My initial reaction was. you have got to be kidding me. The principal holder of the scale of Justice in this fair isle, is pleading for persons with allegations, to just call the Ministry of Justice and say….
” ….this is John Brown. On that case what you have against me, I am actually pleading guilty so I hope that helps you with your backlog!”
I had to put the tablet down and continue to drink my coffee. I could not believe the learned Chief Justice would be that bold to publicly state that the Judiciary, of which she is the head, is inadequate, understaffed, disorganised, under funded, and lack the skills or evidence to complete cases that are in their pending file for years. The Hon. Chief Justice is in essence saying the judicial system in Jamaica, has no intention of directing justice to those who we know or assume are guilty. In some countries there would be calls for her immediate resignation. But this is Jamaica, the land of mediocrity and political barbarism. So a public official in her capacity can get away with stating that if she or the Courts had their way, they would gathered all accused., declare them all guilty and off with their heads!
That to me is going back to the days of Alexander the Great when he was law, judge, jury and executioner. This announcement of the Chief Justice solidifies the quote that in the absence of justice , this sovereignty is nothing but a robber, denying those that are affected, their day in a court of their peers, and upon presentation of evidence and without reasonable doubt was found guilty or not guilty. It gets worse.
Defence lawyer Leroy Equiano expressed his concern at the opening of the new Michaelmas session of the Home Circuit Court on the amount of cases not tried. In the new session there are now 507 cases, of which 24 are new, including the apparent case of all cases, Vybz Kartel.
In response to Equiano’s concerns, Chief Justice Zaila McCalla referred to the Vybz Kartel murder case which lasted for several weeks. “I am concerned with those cases where the matter had to be adjourned and the courtroom left empty because we could not proceed,” Equiano said. “I agree with you on this. It must not happen, and we are making strenuous effort for that not to happen,”
What in the name of justice does ‘strenuous efforts” mean? The only meaning I conjured up from this rather uncomfortable description is as a result of the large backlog of cases, the justice department is constipated and undergoing a strenuous effort to purge themselves of the blockage. It is not a pretty sight for the imagination but what else could the learned chief Justice mean? But wait , there is more!
“Equiano said there were days when courts were adjourned for an entire day to look for a witness…”
I have a fairly active imagination and those words took me right back to the other headlines published about 2 days ago that one of the key witnesses in the much talked about murder case of Mario Deane , suddenly escaped from the confines of the security forces. The question is how many of those witnesses that Mr Equiano is looking for have also suddenly gone missing , never to be found? Frankly both Mr Equiano and the Judiciary seem to be looking for ghost witnesses. With no witness and clearly no admissible evidence , then like all cases void of these rules and legal principles that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding, the case has to be thrown out or at least adjourned sine die. What other mitigating circumstances exist to keep these persons accused locked up for years in our justice system?
The answers lie in a multitude of symptoms that affect the justice system. The lack of training and unlawful modus operandi of the JCF are the keys to this telling story.
1. Police Doctoring of Evidence :It is not uncommon for police criminal investigations to be inadequate. While there exists adequate guidelines and rules pertaining to the manner in which the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) should carry out murder investigations, it invariably is the case that these guidelines are not followed properly, if at all.
2. Crime Scene Management: …..” One Detective testified that he had found blood in a murder suspect’s house, notably, on the floor, on a sofa and in the trunk of the car. However, under cross-examination he conceded that despite being in charge of the crime scene investigation, he never ordered photographs to be taken of the locations exhibiting blood. Photos only were taken of the bodies and of the spot at which the bodies were found. …..the police wilfully disturbed evidence found at the house by moving and touching key items such as a blood stained glove, prior to the arrival of the forensic scientists. …..
3. Intimidation of the accused by the JCF: It has been well documented by human rights organizations that that JCF frequently inflict illegal violence on suspects of crime in order to elicit from them confessions.
4. Witness Protection: In Jamaica, where the police are chronically understaffed and underfunded it is much more difficult for the police to ensure around the clock protection for witnesses who fear for their safety.
No wonder we have a backlog of over 500 cases yet to be tried. The courts in Jamaica are understandably stressed and cannot operate under the present structure and resources needed to administer justice. The DPP herself purported to this on the recent installation of the new Police Commissioner in her round about sort of way. The Justice Ministry , created in 2001 is working with a lot of atrocities and inadequacies the first of which is funding. We contribute close to $300 million to the Caribbean Court of Appeal, and yet we cannot find enough resources for our own courts to be effective . Allocation is made to the JCF under the disguise of political fortitude for fighting crime , however these cases that come before the courts that are understaffed and ill equipped, result in cases suffering from the symptoms stated above. In other words, the Justice Ministry and the Judiciary are the cesspit for the sludge that flows down from the JCF, which they cannot seem to contain.
We live in a country of robbers, robbers of justice and integrity. Frankly the honourable Chief Justice has lost her credibility with her call for :…..”for persons who know they were guilty to plead guilty and stop wasting the court’s time..” No Madame Justice that is not how we do this. Persons are considered innocent until proven guilty. It is incumbent on your team and the JCF to ensure that the necessary evidence are collected without contamination, that witnesses feel secure and safe. That cases are tried in a timely manner and that justice is administered fairly and without political influences. That Madame Justice is the mandate of the Justice Department.
Your call is unprofessional, inept and brings to question the entire judicial system of which you are the head. Yourself and the Minister ought to put pressure where pressure is needed. When everything else fails, as they usually do in Jamaica, the legs of Justice are the only ones we have to stand on. In case you need to be reminded Madame Justice and Minister Golding we live in a democratic country, a country of laws, laws when fired by the bows and arrow of Lady Justice should hit 100% of their mark. Justice is a human right, regardless of how treacherous or murderous the alleged seem to be.
I challenge you to demand changes from these politicians who themselves are the pirates of corruption. Seek to ensure that your Ministry is free from political influences and skulduggery. Jamaicans have lost hope in the type of governance they have seen over the last 52 years. The only hope they can hold on to is justice. When that lifeline is pulled, shortened by resources or threatened by careless remarks from the Chief Justice, then there is nothing left to live for in a country that despite chronic mismanagement and misguided decisions, still continues as a peaceful sovereignty. A country without Justice is but a sovereignty of robbers. When Injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.
Written by Paul Tomlinson
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