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Tuesday 25 June 2019
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Chote: Court bill a recipe for disaster

A SENATOR yesterday cautioned that a new class of criminal cases may be created by a new type of law court proposed in the Criminal Division and District Criminal and Traffic Courts Bill 2018, under debate in the Senate yesterday.

“What exactly is a ‘Special Criminal Court’?” she asked. Asking if Senators were legislating in the dark, she said, “Where do these special criminal courts exists in our criminal justice system? We need to know what kind of cases are being contemplated here.”

She asked what criteria will be used for applying special criminal court rules. Saying she knows of no such “special criminal offences,” Chote hit, “We are talking about handing out special powers, outside of the Constitution.” She dismissed the bill as a “recipe for disaster” for in some cases giving a judicial master the same jurisdiction as a High Court judge.

Chote opposed the re-naming of certain magistrates in the new law-courts. “It’s simply wrong to call a magistrate a ‘district court judge’.” Likening this to the United States practice of labelling a janitor as maintenance engineer, she urged,”Let us keep our disciplines (that is judges and magistrates) separate and clear.”

This separation means when the public goes before a magistrate he knows what to expect, and likewise going before a judge. “I don’t know we are able to fight crime by changing the names of public officials,” Chote added. While she had been a crime victim many times, she did not think the bill would fight crime.

“If this bill helped in the administration of criminal justice, I would have supported it.” She lamented that the bill will increase a judge’s workload and push cases into his court at a pace he could not handle.

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