The Midday Meal

A repository for the various things i consume in the course of daily existence

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Law and Order

I went to court on Monday; I was there because I was summoned to give evidence in the hearing against the bloke who has been accused of unlawful possession of some of the DVDs which were stolen from us last year. The police found him because he had sold a number of those DVDs to a local second hand store. I was there to give evidence to the fact that the DVDs he had sold matched the titles of DVDs stolen from our house. I was at the courthouse for around two hours, waiting got the process to take its course, as a witness I wasn’t allowed in the courtroom until I was called so I was a little surprised when the arresting officer pointed the bloke out when he was being led away from the hearing by people from the department of Corrective Services. We assumed he’d changed his plea to guilty and I wouldn’t be required.

It turns out this was wrong, the guy was defending himself and had claimed to be not guilty and supported this with the slightly dubious assertion that he’d “found” 60 DVDs in a bin at the shops. On hearing this the magistrate pointed out that taking them and selling them still amounted to unlawful possession and advised him he might want to seek legal advice before continuing, so he was lead away to get some legal aid and had to reappear in a few weeks. It was a pretty frustrating experience and a fair waste of time, and one I am sure gets repeated day after day in courts all over this country and in most of the civilised world.

I got home last night and heard the head lawyer in the country tell me that a particular individual who had just spent three years locked in a cell on suspicion of being a terrorist and had recently been released needed to back up his claims of torture during his imprisonment with evidence and facts, and that we should not assume that the government of the nation responsible for his incarceration should be assumed innocent until such evidence was provided, while in the next breath telling us that the individual in question was still under suspicion and a person of concern and could not have his passport back, without providing a scrap of evidence to back up any of it other than the fact that the individual had travelled to a particular country a number of times.

Accusations are not sufficient, proof is required. Will we be happy if Habib admits to being a terrorist? Will we want him to name others? If he does, will we require further proof? Or will the accusation alone be enough? I may appear to be drawing a long bow, but its not as if a similar thing hasn’t happened before.

My morning was wasted, but its really a small price to pay for the knowledge that should I ever be in serious legal trouble the system is designed so that I’ll get some chance at the help I need and the people involved will do their upmost to make sure the hearing I receive is fair. This is not something our government has given to Mamdouh Habib, and it is something that the government should have given him, regardless of whether he is a terrorist.