Friday, January 19, 2018

Judges must declare assets

voicing support: Pamela Elder

Senior Counsel Pamela Elder has voiced her support for the Miscellaneous Provisions (Trial by Judge Alone) Bill, 2017 currently being debated in Parliament.
But, she says, if judge-alone trials are to be established, judges must be made to declare their assets in the interest of transparency. Elder said this would allay public fears that judges could be bribed by wealthy, well-connected persons accused of crimes. “It is my respectful opinion
that once the jurisdiction of judges is expanded and they are empowered to decide whether an accused person is guilty or not guilty, they should be obligated to declare their assets,” Elder said in a release yesterday.
Currently, judges and ma­gistrates are not required to declare their assets with the Integrity Commission since a High Court ruled this was unconstitutional.
Elder said she was not seeking to cast aspersions on the integrity of hard-working judges by calling for judges to declare their assets, but this move would serve to protect judges from bribery allegations and generate public con­fidence in the judicial system. Power plus transparency 

“Members of the public must have confidence in the integrity of the justice system. They should not perceive the system to be unfair and corrupt. It need not be a perfect system for mistakes could honestly be made. But it is critical that the justice system be perceived by the public to be a fair one, and not one in which its members twirl to the seductive rustling of bank notes promised or given as an inducement or reward for a particular decision,” she said.
Elder said public perception of injustice could erode con­fidence in the judicial system.
“How would the public react if a person charged with, for example, murder or a serious fraud case elects trial by judge alone and the verdict of the judge is not guilty?
“Would the man in the street consider that justice has
been done or would he perceive misconduct and hurl alle­­­gations of corrup­tion against the particular judge and the entire justice system? The talk in the street is likely to be that ‘money pass’,” she said.
“Today, I issue a clarion call for judges to be manda­ted to declare their assets if they are given the power to determine guilt or innocence. Power plus transparency.”