Blog: The Verdict of the People
The verdict of the jury in what is known as the Michaela Harte murder case has shocked many. It has attracted criticisms from some. Some others see in that verdict the fairness of our judicial proceedings. Still others lament that this case shows how incompetent our police force is.
It is sad that a person like Sir Anerood Jugnauth who has been responsible for internal affairs as prime minister should have sought to draw political gains from that verdict by blaming the police and criticizing NavinRamgoolam for having established the Mauritius Criminal Investigation Team (MCIT). As for Paul Berenger he attacked the Director of Public Prosecutions for having made certain public statements. Yet none of these two party leaders who are fighting to be prime minister again have condemned the publication of the photographs of the corpse of Michaela Harte.
When we consider the evidence in the case there was in addition to circumstantial evidence the confession of one of the accused. Its admissibility was not challenged but the weight to be attached to it, that is, whether any reliance could be placed on it was a major issue in the case. And the now familiar classic defence that accused put up after being arrested and confessing to a major offence was used once again, namely police brutality. On the one hand there is a public outcry on the rising rate of crime in Mauritius. On the other hand the police that is mandated and empowered to fight and investigate crime is being lynched almost daily by that same public. Which is which, one may ask.
Since it has become customary and very convenient to allege police brutality in all cases where a confession has been obtained many questions need to be asked. Should confessions still be admissible? Should the method of interrogating suspects be revamped? When a confession is used in a court of law,who is being judged, the police or the accused? In the jury system that we have in Mauritius nobody will ever know what went in the minds of the jurors who acquitted the two accused on the murder charge.There can only be speculations with the danger that such an exercise carries. But it can safely be assumed that the jury was judging not the accused but the police, and that verdict was meant to censure the police. The police was pilloried from start to finish and some of the police officers cut a poor show on the witness stand. Many questions were left unanswered like why DNAs were not carried out, why the husband of the victim was not searchingly questioned; why the crime scene had been cleaned.
The above notwithstanding was the jury justified in clearing the two accused? The answer to this question will always be a controversial debate. In the light of the able submissions of counsel for the prosecution, Mr. Mehdi Manrakhan, and the forceful attacks of the two counsel for the defence, Mr. Rama Valayden and MrTeeluckdharry who focused on police brutality, it is hard to say whether the verdict was justified. This brings in the forefront whether the jury system is to be kept or not.
What this case has however brought to light is the unashamed interference of foreign governments and foreign media in the internal affairs of our country and in the internal workings of our judiciary. One would have thought that there was another attempt to recolonize Mauritius because nearly fifty years of independence have left us in a primitive state and that civilisation has abandoned us.
Unfortunately and sadly the local media and the stupid local bloggers supported that campaign against Mauritius as if acquittals never occur in the British or Irish trials. Mauritius has never created an IRA as Ireland terrorists did leaving behind hundreds of innocent victims. Let these foreign countries be warned and advised that our judicial system works in a transparent manner notwithstanding the bitter taste the verdict of not guilty has left in many quarters including Mauritius.