It is axiomatic that law and order is, or should be, at the top of the list for any civilized society. And it is important to remember that our justice system is based on the premise that it is better for ten guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to hang. Put another way, our justice system is about justice for the accused; if it was about justice for the victim then there could only be one possible verdict in every criminal trial: guilty!
We have today a serious problem that has arisen in our justice system that nobody really wants to deal with. The problem is being kicked around from one side to the other and forgotten about, probably deliberately, until somebody raises it again, and then everybody wrings his hands and says in effect ‘but I don’t know what to do! And in any case, it wasn’t me who created the problem in the first place. Why should I have to deal with it?’
I am talking about the one hundred or so poor wretches that have been waiting for years to have their preliminary enquiries heard and now have to wait for years again thanks to the screw up by somebody (we don’t know yet exactly who, although the published evidence seems to point in a certain direction) that has resulted in all fifty-three of their cases being started again. The latest bright idea is to go back to the Courts and seek an Interpretation Summons. How long this will take is, of course, irrelevant. Let the poor wretches who have not yet been found guilty just stay and rot in jail for as long as it takes! After all, they are all probably guilty anyway!!
You have only got to look at it to see how grossly unfair that is to the accused and how highly unsatisfactory it is to the society as a whole. And if anybody says that he does not see why this is so wrong or unfair, then let’s lock him up and throw away the key for a few years without a trial and see whether he still doesn’t get the point!
No. It is wrong and it is unfair.
It may very well be that all of these poor wretches are indeed guilty of the crimes that they have been accused of. But what if there is one, or two, or ten that aren’t? Do we just turn our heads and look the other way? Do we regard them as ‘collateral damage’?
Like almost everybody else, my life has been personally affected adversely (and seriously so) by the crime epidemic in this country. I have absolutely no sympathy for persons found guilty of a crime. But the key words in that last sentence are “…persons found guilty …”. So, please don’t think that I don’t understand the strong hurt that victims of crime experience. Unfortunately, I know from firsthand experience how that hurt can linger for a lifetime.
So? What to do?
I would like to recommend that CONDITIONAL pardons be given to each and every one of the accused in these fifty-three matters. The condition would be that they are set free immediately but IF at any time in the future anyone of these men is found to be guilty of ANY crime … a speeding ticket would suffice … during the rest of his life then he can be tried for the offence for which he is presently charged.
Is this a “perfect” solution? Far from it! But at least it would show that we do understand the injustice that has taken place and that we are prepared to do something about it. Two or even three wrongs do not make right. And what has happened to these men is wrong.
I have deliberately not debated whose fault this was. Not because I am not interested or think that is not important, but because I think that it is more important to fix the problem first … and to fix it fast! Today! Now!
And the answer to the question as to why should you have to deal with it is because you are in charge. It is up to our leaders to fix a problem whether they created it or not.
The only test of leadership is to lead and to lead vigorously. The Government must take the lead. Now. Going to Court for an ‘interpretation’ is a cop out and is not leadership but cowardice. Lead!
This Piece was written by Robin Montano, one of the more prominent and respected Attorneys in Trinidad and Tobago.