Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ignoring the rule of law

Kaieteur News Editorial. 25 March 2010. Ignoring the rule of law.
March 25, 2010 | By KNews | Filed Under Editorial

There are three pillars of the constitution—the Executive which involves the President and his Ministers; the Parliament; and the Judiciary. Each is independent of the other. Each has its specific role and duty and none shall dictate to the other.
Each has an integral role to play in the society and each is critical. Should any one fail then the society is bound to descend to a level of anarchy. The courts have been in the limelight more recently; they have been breaking new ground, albeit within the confines of the law. They have been granting bail to murder accused.
This would seem most unusual but when one considers that the accused is also entitled to an early trial then the courts have a right to see that all things must be satisfied in such cases. When Justice Ian Chang granted bail to a murder accused, the first time in decades that this happened, he took into consideration that the accused was being detained under unusual circumstances.
Preliminary inquiries were started and aborted while the accused languished. The system was not working and the accused was at the mercy of a failing system. Such situations often cause people to disregard the legal process. Perhaps that is why so many people opt to take the law into their own hands.
Justice James Bovell-Drakes made a similar ruling to Justice Chang although there is some question about whether he used the correct method and adhered to the correct principles.
The most recent judge to release a murder accused on bail has been Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire. Again there were raised eyebrows but the judge was at pains to indicate the various breaches of the rights of the individual.
Justice George-Wiltshire had granted bail to an earlier accused whom the police and the prison authorities refused to release. And even when the accused was released they insisted on taking him into custody that they detained a relative as hostage. The police had become engaged in kidnapping and hostage-taking.
What is interesting is that when the court rules the law enforcement arm does not act with alacrity. For example, the accused in Justice Bovell-Drakes’s ruling still languishes in jail while there are appeals and challenges.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has also gone to court to challenge Justice Chang’s ruling. This appeal is yet to be heard and this speaks volumes for the system. But the action by the police which one can assume is independent of the DPP suggests that the ranks are prepared to challenge the ruling by continuing to detain the accused. The inference is clear; once the accused is accused his place is in the jail, regardless for how long.
This should not be unless there is blatant disregard for the judicial arm of the constitution. And on many occasions this has been the case. The courts on one occasion made a ruling which the then Commissioner of Police ignored. Representative of the plaintiff made moves to have the Commissioner cited for contempt. The judge was afraid to cite the Commissioner.
In other parts of the world the courts have no problem operating within their confines. None is above the law; economic status in the society means nothing. A former New York police commissioner has been sent to jail; a billionaire fraudster will never again see the light of day as a free man; and another billionaire fraudster is awaiting his day in court.
Those who challenge the order of court should be made to pay the penalty. There is nothing to stop the head of the Guyana Police Force and the head of the Prisons for being sentenced for contempt. They have on every occasion challenged an order of court without the requisite legal support.
Those things being said, there is to be a new development. These men have to go to court to stand trial. They would be going home at the end of each session. Should they recognize that the action is going against them, would they flee? We already have a few who refused to go to court for sentencing and they remain at large although more than two decades have passed.

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