Rejoinder: Strange Case; did the Court do justice in this Case?
Some days back we told you the story of a strange criminal case. The case was not strange because someone (Miss A) had committed a crime. It was strange because of the verdict of the Magistrate. We ended by saying that that was one case where the Magistrate talked himself into saving a life and he may have done justice. In today’s piece, our professional colleague and friend who is a criminal Prosecutor disagrees. And his reasons are formidable. Do enjoy the read.
So, I just read the article published on your blog a few days ago. I’ll like to share my thoughts considering the facts as a criminal prosecutor
First and foremost, the alternative charge as suggested by the Magistrate in my opinion was incorrect. Miss A should have been charged for robbery and either attempted murder or assault occasioning harm. Never armed robbery.
It is my view that nothing she did from your narration of the facts amounted to armed robbery. This is because for it to be armed robbery, she should have gone to steal the phone or the money with a weapon. But from your narration what happened was that she stole money then bought phone. In my opinion, she therefore committed robbery in stealing the money.
Later on, she went to revenge and stabbed the complainant. This act would amount to attempted murder or assault occasioning harm and both offences are bailable in the high court.
Now on the issue of investigations and police force in our country, it’s well known that the police barely investigate crimes. Apart from that, we do not know what was contained in the file so we cannot say if this case was an exception to the usual police practice.
As much as I blame the police, most of my blame goes to the system. A system that does not make basic provisions for the simplest of things needed to investigate crime is deeply flawed. Things as basis as fuel for the police car to aid in visiting scenes of crimes is often unavailable. There are too many things wrong with the system.
Then the Magistrate. The Magistrates’ Court is a court of summary jurisdiction. Most times, because of the 48-hour constitutional rule, the police seek to charge suspects very quickly and get them off their hands.
Did the magistrate jump into the arena by rendering his opinion after perusing the case without listening to her? I don’t think so. Summary jurisdiction means everything is expedited. Besides Miss A had no lawyer there with her who could speak for her.
The Magistrate only relied on the facts that were before him. If there were opposing facts as presented by Miss A or her lawyer, do you still think the magistrate would have spoken as he did? I don’t think so.
Now on the issue of justice
The whole scenery of ordering Miss A to kneel down and apologize to the Complainant before releasing her because she was pregnant. What does that teach Miss A?
As much as we can say that a 19-year-old girl is still reasonably young and is confused about life, shouldn’t we also be endeavoring to teach our children (and young adults) a lesson that will stick forever with them? In this case, the lesson that every action has a corresponding consequence?
A person who was supposedly confused; stole from her madam, went to buy a phone, was of conscious mind to change the name so it could not be traced to her, when she was caught, later bought a weapon, and went back to stab the person who she assumed blew the whistle on her?
Is that a person that seems confused to you? Or is that the budding mindset of a potential criminal?
And she was let go with a simple tap on the knuckle because she was pregnant?
What has she been taught? That because of her perceived young age and pregnant status, she can get away with serious things? That actions don’t have consequences?
Our system is deeply flawed, yes. But I do not agree that justice was served in this case.
If she committed the robbery alone, I’ll understand forgiveness upon repayment of the money. But if were in the Magistrate’s shoes, I’ll still grant an order for community service or something similar to make her understand that there’s a punishment. But by basically sending her away free, I respectfully think that the magistrate has released a criminal into the society in a jurisdiction other than his own
Justice is 3-way street which is justice for the state, justice for the complainant and justice for the accused. To nobody was justice served in this instance. I’d explain.
For the State, a criminal has been released back into society. From the narration, she had intention for both crimes and she actually committed them.
For the complainant, there was no restitution. You judged (or reached conclusions about) her (as I’m sure others around did) because she did not show any signs of injury does not mean she was not actually injured. If on the other hand, she had gotten something serious and he died, the story would have been different. Did she really want to forgive her but saw to the prosecution of the charge? But when she saw the direction of the Court’s discretion, she may have just bowed to peer pressure and forgave Miss A. So, what restitution did she really get? After all she had spent money at the police and for the little time she spent treating herself, a little bit of punishment could have gone a long way, not the forced forgiveness that seems to have played out.
For the accused, she was not taught the most important lesson that would guide her adult life. Imagine now, as she has gone free, she gets angry and says they made me kneel down in public, so she picks another weapon and goes after the Magistrate or the Complainant, what will the tale be? She is at a formative age and needs to be taught life’s lessons as quickly as possible
As my mother taught me, when a child commits a crime, beat the child with the left hand, then use the right to pull the child back to you. We do not realise the consequences of our actions, the far-reaching effects, until the chicken had come home to roost
Forgive my lengthy writing. But on this issue of justice, occasionally, it is nice to look at it from the point of the one who was living a simple life and his absolute right to peace was brutally violated by someone for very flimsy reasons.
Thank you and God bless.