These days if you are involved in a fatal accident and you are arrested by the police, you should expect a long stay at the police station.
You should call your family and ask them to bring blankets and pillows because as sure night follows day, the police, regardless of the facts of the case, are going to hold you overnight.
The police do not understand the law. They feel that somehow they must keep you for the specified 72 hours which they are allowed to do under the law. Whether you are a small fry or a big fish, you have to spend the night on the police bench.
In the movie, And Justice for All, starring Al Pacino, there is a memorable scene in which the lead actor is making his opening statement to the jury. Pacino plays the role of Arthur Kirkland who is forced to defend a man whom he dislikes, Judge Henry T. Flemming, who is accused of rape.
He makes a brilliant opening statement, which begins as follows:
“Your Honour, Mr. Foreman, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my name is Arthur Kirkland, and I am the defense counsel for the defendant, Judge Henry T. Fleming. Now, that man over there, he’s the prosecuting attorney, and he couldn’t be happier today.
“He is a happy man today, because today he’s going after a judge, and if he gets him, if he gets him, he’s going to be a star. He’s going to have his name in this month’s Law Review. Centerfold…Lawyer of the Month.
Now, in order to win this case, he needs you, naturally. You’re all he’s got, believe me. So he’s counting on tapping that emotion in you that says “Let’s get somebody in power. Let’s get a judge.”
That movie was made more than 40 years ago but that idea that the masses love to see the mighty fall from their thrones is still relevant. Whenever a person of stature is accused of something, the masses derive satisfaction in seeing that person humiliated and disgraced.
It compensates for the masses own lack of accomplishment in life to see persons of authority brought down to the ordinary.
I have no facts about the accident which took place last Saturday and which involved a member of the cycling fraternity and the former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force. And even if I did, it would be improper to make any pronouncement given that that matter is sub judice.
There however have been calls for justice. But what does that mean? Does this call originate out of fears that the official will not be subject the law? Or is it a case whereby they simply want the thrill of seeing a “big one” punished – wanting to see the system getting a “big one”?
It is not easy being involved in an accident in which someone loses his or her life. The person who is in the wrong has to live with that guilt for the rest of his or her life. Having to carry that guilt on one’s conscience is worst that a life sentence.
I remember an incident, which took place many years ago–a woman who asked to take a toddler to school. The child was placed in the back seat of her car. The woman simply forgot and went straight to work, locking the child in the car. The child died from the heat in the enclosed car.
But a part of that woman also died on that day. The act was not deliberate. The woman has to carry that burden on her conscience for the rest of her life. It is a terrible burden to bear.
I repeat that I do not know the facts in the present case involving the former Chief of Staff. Nonetheless, I cannot begin to comprehend why the police in such matters have to hold a suspect for days in a police station.
The police are supposed to arrest you if they have probable cause to suspect or they feel that you have committed an offence. They can detain you for questioning.
But why is it that they have to detain you for hours? It is not as if the facts can be that difficult to determine. And why would you want to keep someone all those hours without placing that person on bail?
That should only happen if you feel that the person is going to pervert the course of justice, is a threat to society or will flee the jurisdiction. None of those conditions, I assume existed. So why keep the former Chief of Staff in the police station for so long?
This extended and unnecessary detention happens also to ordinary citizens. It may be the police way of showing that everyone is treated equally. But is it necessary to keep someone overnight after you would have taken his or her statement and exhausted questioning?
Justice has to be served but not through unnecessary restraints on an accused’s freedom.
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