I’m hoping GINA’s Head, Dr. Prem Misir, who once wrote a letter supporting the right of the executive branch of Government to question the decisions or rulings of the judicial branch, read the reported comments attributed to acting Chief Justice, Mr. Ian Chang, “OP distances self from Rohee’s comment on the judiciary,” (Kaieteur News, May 23).
Up until now, I didn’t know anything about Justice Chang’s background or political/ideological sympathy, if any, but on reading the news item, I am delighted to learn he is committed to the independence of the judiciary from the control and influence of the executive branch of Government. I have a healthy respect for the gentleman.
I want these words of Justice Chang to sink into the mind of Dr. Misir: “Some tension between the judiciary and the executive is inevitable, and must be accepted as not abnormal. It was meant to be so in the political structure of the state, in which the doctrine of separation of powers inheres.”
Separation of powers means just that, and nothing else. The President may be instrumental in selecting justices, but this selection is not supposed to have politically partisan strings attached, requiring justices to always rule or decide in favour of Government, or that if justices don’t, then they get punished by being denied promotion.
Such denials themselves are unjust and can breed resentment on the bench. I will always write about Justice Claudette Singh, who, despite her seniority on the bench, was bypassed for promotion to Chief Justice.
Today, with an urgent need to reduce a backlog of court cases, Justice Singh would have been an asset here, rather than sitting at a desk in the Attorney General’s chambers.
Even if she is eventually named the new AG, she will always remember being bypassed on the bench; and in order to be politically correct by the Government, she will likely second guess herself in future decisions.
Now, the only reason why Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee could have openly questioned Justice Chang’s decision to grant bail to a double homicide accused is because Mr. Rohee first noticed this kind of behaviour in the President, who also publicly questioned previous decisions by presiding court officials.
But what made the Office of the President suddenly distance itself from Mr. Rohee’s irresponsible outburst? I wouldn’t be surprised if the distancing is really a coy to hoodwink the public into believing the executive branch is not trying to control or influence the judicial branch.
As for Justice Chang’s ruling, Mr. Rohee should have appreciated the fact that the justice took over the job a few months ago, fully cognizant of the huge backlog of court cases awaiting resolution; and in this case of the murder suspect being granted bail, the suspect was first charged with the crimes committed in 2000.
That would make it eight years since the man was awaiting trial, and up to the time of bail being granted, the prosecution was not even ready. Where is Mr. Rohee’s sense of justice, assuming he believes justice delayed is justice denied?
And the prosecution’s failure to prepare, despite having enough time, should now be a factor for justices to consider in ensuring justice is done and seen to be done.
Only a few days ago, sedition accused, Guyanese Mr. Oliver Hinckson, had his hearing put back yet again, because the prosecutor’s key witness in the gun charge case was a no-show, and the special prosecutor in his case also was a no-show, so Mr. Hinckson was sent back to remand instead of being granted bail.
A man accused of double-homicide gets bail after waiting trial for eight years, but this does not have to be Mr. Hinckson’s reality.
Nor should it be the reality of many others on remand. Who or what is preventing the presiding magistrate in Mr. Hinckson’s hearing from using his own judgement and granting bail? Is it the Government? Is it the President?
To help reduce the backlog of cases and ensure justice is done, even for suspects, judges and magistrates need to take a cue from Justice Chang and make decisions based on interpretation and application of the law, and not based on political expediency, by considering granting bail on a case-by-case basis to suspects on remand for extremely long periods.
Bail in such cases is essentially a temporary second chance opportunity; but since second chances are not meant for repeat offenders, anyone who returns to court while on bail, and is found guilty of a new crime, deserves to remain locked up until their cases are heard.
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