GIS – July 25, 2013: The Criminal Appeal (Amendment) Bill is a continuation of the reform process to modernise Mauritius’ judicial system, which had started in 1997 with the appointment of Lord Mackay to review the structure and operation of the country’s judicial system and the legal professions.
The Prime Minister, Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam, made this statement during his intervention on the Criminal Appeal (Amendment) Bill which was voted in National Assembly on 24 July 2013.
Given the importance of the Bill, stated the PM, the decision to have a Commission has been taken in order to allay the fears of the Opposition and some members of the Bar. ‘Instead of having another full-fledged Commission – we are of the view that the Human Rights Commission can very well discharge this duty itself’, he said.
Also, the option of an applicant to go direct to the Supreme Court has been kept. Now the applicant has two options, either going to the Commission which will then have to give its views to the Supreme Court or go direct to the Supreme Court. However, the decision of the Commission can be judicially reviewed, he added.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the Attorney-General will move appropriate amendments to the Bill at Committee stage, in order to provide for the Director of Public Prosecutions to be conferred a limited substantive right of appeal against an acquittal following a jury trial in the following circumstances:
- Where there has been a substantial misdirection by the Judge in the course of his summing-up
- Where the jury’s verdict is palpably untenable, unreasonable or unsupported by the evidence, and
- Where a serious irregularity has occurred in the course of the trial or the acquittal is otherwise tainted.
These limited grounds of appeal, said Dr Ramgoolam, will surely alleviate the apprehensions of members of the Bar and strike an adequate balance between the sanctity of a jury verdict and the need to protect the interests of society and uphold public confidence in the criminal justice system by ensuring that offenders are brought to trial.
According to the Prime Minister, in this modern international era, one must not lose sight of the rights of victims. ‘Indeed many States around the world are promoting and fostering the rights of victims, even to the extent of giving statutory recognition to these rights. I am proud to say that we are also moving in that direction’, he added.
The interests of justice demand that neither the guilty should not be allowed to walk free even one day more nor the innocent should not be allowed to languish in jail for one day more than he should, Dr Ramgoolam said in his concluding remarks.
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