By *Jeshua Bardoo
Oftentimes in the media, we learn about a gruesome crime that has been committed and the arrest of someone in relation to that crime.
The headlines usually shock and many people call for justice. However, without having all the facts, many persons oftentimes rush to condemn others as guilty, call for their death, or some act or omission to be done to an accused person that will negatively impact their life or unjustifiably infringe upon their rights.
But the fact of the matter is that everyone has inherent human and constitutional rights, even persons accused of the most gruesome and heinous crimes in society.
While some of us may not like it, if someone has been accused of a crime, they still deserve to be treated with dignity, they still deserve to be treated with respect, and their human and constitutional rights should still be recognised and protected by law enforcement officers, judicial officers, and the society at large.
Overwhelming evidence or speculation may be shared with the general public concerning an accused person’s acts and/or omissions. However, accused persons still have a right to a fair trial.
They shall be presumed innocent until it is proved that they are guilty or they plead such. They have a right to be informed of any charges laid against them within a reasonable time. They should be entitled to bail if they have been charged with a bailable offence. Unlawful detention and/or search should not be carried out against an accused person. They are entitled to their right to remain silent and should not be beaten, threatened, or forced to give evidence. They are entitled to legal representation. They should be tried before an impartial and independent judicial officer within a reasonable time. If applicable, they should be tried before a jury. They should be able to challenge evidence from the complainant. They should be allowed to call witnesses and give evidence. If applicable, they have a right to an interpreter. If found guilty, they should not be excessively sentenced. They should be entitled to any legal remedy that should be afforded to them. They also shouldn’t be tried for the same offence on the same facts twice.
Allowing an accused person to have a fair trial also means that we must avoid taking justice into our own hands. We must allow the various actors in the justice system to do their jobs and where they are not doing their jobs effectively, advocate for change and improvement. If everyone were to take justice into their own hands there would be chaos and anarchy in society and many innocent lives would be harmed and taken away from us.
Today, I encourage us to continue to learn more about the right to a fair trial and to ensure that this right is protected in our society.
* Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian barrister-at-law and solicitor. He is the President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He also has an LLM in international human rights law. He can be contacted via email at [email protected]
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