Where lawyers fear to tread

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If you grew up in the 90s, you will have perhaps followed the double murder trial of O.J. Simpson, a former American football star and actor who was accused of having cold-bloodedly murdered his ex wife and her boyfriend.

Simpson used a pack of slick lawyers who elevated him from an accused murderer to some sort of political prisoner. After a lengthy trial during which the law tried its hardest to convict him, the man in the dock walked. Later, the victims’ families sued Simpson for damages in a civil trial and a jury unanimously found that there was a “preponderance of evidence to make Simpson liable for damages in the wrongful death” of both victims. But Simpson could not be retried in the criminal division and never had to answer for his crimes.

We don’t know how much of this some of our eminent lawyers who have deputised themselves as guarantors of our constitution and are up in arms against the proposed criminal appeal (amendment) bill think is fair. To what extent exactly do these learned gentlemen think our criminals should be protected from justice?

The arguments presented compete in preposterousness and boil down to saying that once someone has been acquitted by a jury, they should stay away from jail just because it is anti-constitutional to try them a second time. They suggest that perhaps a verdict by the jury is so infallible that it can never be wrong. It is difficult to understand this argument as that would equally mean that if some innocent person has been wrongly convicted, they have to stay in jail even if there is evidence of their innocence.

The claim that this proposed amendment would give the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) more powers sounds more like a red herring. After all, all the powers the DPP will have are to refer cases to court and allow the latter to deal with each case according to the evidence it is presented with. What exactly is wrong with that?

Justice is man-made – and the jury is made up of men and women – and because it is man-made, it is fallible. Because of this fallibility, we have always stood against the death penalty. In the same spirit of the infallibility of Man and his justice, we refuse to think that the DPP should not be allowed to call for a new trial when there is new compelling evidence either that there was a failure to convict someone who is guilty or to let someone who is innocent walk. Why should we go stir-crazy about a criminal who escaped justice having a Damocles sword over his head? Justice should be allowed to catch up with those who are guilty. No constitutional right should prevent that.

Simpson is currently incarcerated for an armed robbery and kidnapping. Somehow, when you get away with crime, you try to get away with more crime.

The Mauritian criminal justice system is one of the largest mechanisms, which catches in its huge net thousands of defendants, witnesses, victims, as well as their families. Lawyers should therefore think of everyone the system is serving. This is not about them or the clients they managed to get off the hook. It is about truth, justice and fairness to victims – whoever they are. Come on, gentlemen!

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