Saturday, 10 February 2018

TRUTH & RIGHTS: ICJ judge Patrick Robinson calls for renewed legislation to better protect victims of criminal offences

TO TELL THE TRUTH: “[My] proposal is best seen as a justice-seeking measure recalibrating the principles of finality and accuracy in the interest of justice,” says Robinson.

“THE path of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. Our challenge here in Jamaica is to ensure that victims in Jamaica receive that justice.” Honourable Judge Patrick Robinson put forward several eye-opening and thought-provoking arguments as he gave a public lecture at the University of Technology’s (UTech) Faculty of Law on Friday morning, addressing the topic “Qualification of the Rule Against Double Jeopardy).”

Judge Robinson is of the opinion that in a developing country like Jamaica, victimhood (especially when it comes to serious criminal offences) has been “as quotidian as the common cold.” Too often criminals get away with outrageous offences. To this end, Robinson recommends that the powers that be in the justice system devise legislation “along the lines of the UK Act” when it comes to serious matter like the issue of double jeopardy.

(The term “double jeopardy” means that under criminal law once the accused has been acquitted he cannot be tried again for the same crime.)

But what if there is new, compelling and highly probative evidence to reopen the case? And what if this new evidence serves the interest of justice so strongly that the Court of Appeal has no choice but to order a retrial?

Judge Robinson, a Jamaican member of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), believes Jamaica has inherited a judicial legacy that focuses largely on the rights of the accused. “Legislation in Jamaica along the lines of the UK Act will strengthen the credibility of the criminal justice system by showing greater respect for the rights and benefits of the victim,” he said. “I have in mind a concept of criminal justice in which account is taken of the victim at every stage of the system.”

 Making numerous references to the widely publicized Stephen Lawrence murder case (1993), Judge Robinson said, alarmingly, there have been acquittals in Jamaica where the interest of the court was not served at all. “I want to see the day that marks the evolution of a broader concept of the criminal justice system in Jamaica characterized by greater respect for human life,” said Robinson, who is also heavily involved in extradition work. 

To the best of his knowledge, Robinson said, the rule against double jeopardy is not absolute internationally. This is something all Jamaicans must know, he insists. “[My] proposal is best seen as a justice-seeking measure recalibrating the principles of finality and accuracy in the interest of justice because there is a process that may ultimately consider a retrial.”

The advent of new technologies, Robinson adds, will significantly aid in clearing the path for re-prosecutions.







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