Qs & As
“Murder, child molesting, rape and other sexual offences are all unpopular in the eyes of the public.
Does that mean that offenders connected with such offences should be deprived of legal assistance?”
* ‘All allegations of drug possession, trafficking and planting will have to be thrashed out before a court of law’
The controversies between law enforcement and investigation officers on the one hand and lawyers representing a suspect have been particularly vitriolic in recent cases of drug-related offences. While one political party says its legal members will not defend drug traffickers, this raises the constitutionally guaranteed ability of a suspect to be represented by a lawyer of his choice in many unpopular crimes, where the suspect has to be proved guilty in a court of law through the adversarial system. Lex is invited to comment on these and other related issues.
* Some jurisdictions consider hard drugs to be scourges on society and people are going to jail for a very long time for trafficking in high volumes of hard drugs. How is the Mauritius jurisdiction doing on that front?
drug traffickers in Mauritius are invariably sentenced to very long terms of imprisonment as it is considered that such traffickers just like hardened criminals need to be locked up for a long time and kept away from mainstream society.
* What considerations lawyers are expected to take into account when their services are required?
Lawyers take an oath to defend people accused of having committed offences including those related to drugs. A lawyer will study the facts and advise his client about the merits of the case and decide whether to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at the trial.
* Should lawyers reject drug cases merely because the subject matter may be unpopular?
There are many unpopular offences besides those related to drugs. Murder, child molesting, rape and other sexual offences are all unpopular in the eyes of the public. Does that mean that offenders connected with such offences should be deprived of legal assistance — a right that is enshrined in the Constitution of the country?
It is surprising to see that a lawyer, who is a top gun in an Opposition party, has stated that lawyers in his party do not defend drug traffickers. That may be compatible with their moral or religious values but certainly not with the oath they took as barristers.
* One would presume that lawyers would ensure that their fees do not come from proceeds of crime or that they refrain from influencing witnesses or fabricating alibis, right?
There is a perception in the minds of many people that lawyers resort to illegal practices to get their client/s out of hot water. If anyone has any proof of such practices, he should report the matter to the police or to the Bar Council.
However, until it is proved that lawyers assist in influencing witnesses or fabricating alibis, it must be presumed that lawyers do their duty honestly.
* Commissions of inquiry have at times been criticised for being unfair towards lawyers with the unfavourable comments made in their reports, which can potentially destroy their professional careers. Such comments have been ordered to be struck out following judicial reviews. What’s your take on that?
It must be made clear that a commission of inquiry is a fact finding body, not a trial court or a forum where uncalled-for criticisms can be levelled at anybody.
Unfortunately, some commissions of inquiry consider that they have a licence to lash out at anybody even in the absence of concrete evidence. In many cases the Supreme Court has quashed findings that were made without an iota of supporting evidence or without giving an opportunity to lawyers or other individuals to refute allegations levelled against them.
The report of the last commission of inquiry on drug trafficking contained many allegations against lawyers that they were suborning witnesses, but no concrete evidence of any such practice has been put forward.
* What about the distinction to be made between consumers of drugs and drug traffickers?
A distinction must indeed be made between consumers and traffickers. Trafficking depends on the amount of drugs secured as well as other paraphernalia that would raise a suspicion of trafficking. However, the police have a tendency to inflate the value of drugs found on somebody in order to pin him down as a trafficker. This is important because a suspected drug trafficker will not easily get bail and may even be held incommunicado for 36 hours that is without having access to a lawyer.
* There have been allegations of drug planting in the case of Bruneau Laurette following his arrest by the police at Saint Pierre after some 40 kilos of hashish and other items were seized. There have also been speculations relating to the existence of a so-called “hit list” of those who are opposed to the government, which inevitably politicizes this matter. what are your views on these allegations?
All allegations of drug possession, trafficking and planting will have to be thrashed out before a court of law. Bruno Laurette is an avowed opponent of the government, and an allegation of drug planting can easily be made to support the argument that the government wants to get rid of him and to silence him.
What is important and maybe disturbing at this stage however is the fact that he is not getting bail.
Every accused party is entitled to a fair trial. Fairness depends on several factors and not only what goes on during the trial. It has been held in a few cases that the safeguard of a fair trial includes and encompasses the methods of investigation by the prosecuting authorities. An alleged abuse may arise in various different forms. It may involve complaints about the methods used to investigate an offence. Read More… Become a Subscriber
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 18 November 2022
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