MAGISTRATES now face personal liability for their decisions, the Appeal Court ruled in July, and this ruling could have a terrifying effect on them, said Independent Senator Anthony Vieira yesterday.
The Senate debated a change to the Magistrates Protection Act to require that anyone suing a magistrate must first prove he/she had acted with malice in making their ruling.
Vieira said how much respect he has for magistrates, who he said must now not become subject to intimidation by those appearing before them threatening to take them to court.
However, he said a ruling in July in the case of Jagroo vs Mason highlighted a chink in the armour of the law courts.
“This will have a chilling effect on all those who administer justice,” Vieira said of this liability. “Our magistrates have little or no support. They don’t earn much and must support their families. The last thing they need is to be defendants in a court for acts done in good faith.”
He said after all the work done for crime detection, cases should not crash in court because a magistrate feels intimidated. "No one in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity should face personal liability of acting in good faith."
However Opposition Senator Wade Mark had a different view, saying magistrates must never be put above the law. While he supported the general work of magistrates, he said it would be unfair under the new amendment to make an ordinary man in the street have to prove an erring magistrate had acted out of malice.
"The magistrate should not be personally liable, but do not remove the people's right to take action if a magistrate goes beyond his power."