Provisional charges: ‘The abuse does not lie in the concept of provisional charges.

It lies in the manner in which the police makes use of their enormous powers of arresting people, sometimes abusively

Qs & As
Police Investigations & provisional Charges

* ‘We should go for a constitutional amendment to have the DPP supervise police investigations’


Lex delves into the issues surrounding a police force that should be respected, independent and needed for general society policing. Yet when so many disturbing cases of police action seem directed at specific people, mostly in Opposition, and conducted in the most outlandish of ways, many questions have come to the fore. Is it time to rethink the “provisional charges” provisions that may ignore the test of reasonable suspicion or come up with a UK-inspired Police and Criminal Evidence Act to better prevent police abuses, caters for human rights of suspects and restores our faith in the way our society functions?

* Like the judiciary, the police are essential to democratic governance, rule of law, for the protection of the public and respect for human rights and should not therefore be undermined. But mistakes and misconduct can and do take place in police work. Successive governments here have failed to make sure that excesses do not continue or are curtailed. Why is that so?

Where there are people at work, mistakes are bound to happen. But not all mistakes can be described as such. There are mistakes that cannot be condoned. Police brutality is not a mistake. It is a deliberate act that violates the fundamentals of the rule of law.

Excesses occur under any government and measures need to be taken. It is for the home minister to set down the rules with the Commissioner of Police and call upon him to keep a check on his Force. It’s unfortunate that the public perception today is that the present regime looks the other way when it comes to the excesses of the police. Is there a political reason behind all this?

* It could be that the police are hard-pressed dealing with the serious drug abuse and trafficking situation in the country. The Prime Minister stated this week in Parliament that 3598 cases of drug offences involving only minors and young people under the age of 25 have been reported to the police since January 2019 to date. Mistakes are bound to happen…

There are different degrees of mistakes. Any police investigation should comply with the rule of law. The components of that notion are that the fundamental rights of suspects must be respected. A suspect must not be stripped of his rights once the police lay their hands on him/her. What is deplorable is that some busy bodies on social network approve of any such illegal actions when the suspect happens to be an opponent of the present regime.

* One would expect however that when mistakes and misconduct take place, the investigation is never conducted by the police itself or by whichever unit involved. This has been repeatedly canvassed by defence lawyers. It does not seem there is any legal obligation upon the police to do things differently?

Agreed. We have a Police Complaints Commission that is supposedly independent. It is mandated to investigate all complaints against the police. What has been the track record of that institution, which is fatly funded by taxpayers’ money?

* What do our Constitution and our different laws provide for the rights of suspects?

The police can arrest an individual if they have reasonable suspicion that he has committed an offence. The courts have explained that a criminal offence that has been committed presupposes the existence of facts or information which would satisfy an objective observer that the person concerned may have committed an offence.

Once the person is arrested, he must be informed of the charge against him and that he has the right to consult a lawyer. These days it would seem that it is the police and not the Constitution that decide whether a suspect can have access to a lawyer. And institutions like the Human Rights Commission keep silent about this. Read More… Become a Subscriber

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 2 December 2022

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