THE EDITOR, Sir:
I have always been intrigued by the difference in approach to justice under British/Jamaican jurisprudence compared to that of the Americans. Both will claim that their system stands firmly on the principle that an accused person is deemed innocent until a court finds the accused guilty.
The British/Jamaican jurisprudence rigidly observes the sub judice principle in which media or public discussion on a matter that is before the court is not allowed. Persons who breach that principle are charged with contempt of court, which is a tort that can be punished by imprisonment.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Americans' media/public comments are permitted while the matter is before the court. Often, the intensity and latitude of discussion on matters still before the court are such that it seems to be a media trial.
Out of respect for our laws and the sub judice principle, no comment will be made on the matter concerning the police, a politician and a prominent citizen. However, there is a matter, seemingly not unrelated, about which the public should be very concerned. Here, reference is made to what some may classify as a demonstration or show of solidarity with one or more of the accused persons.
LEAVE NO ROOM FOR INTIMIDATION
Why should there be concern about citizens exercising their constitutional right to peaceful assembly? The concern is that such an assembly within proximity of a venue where a trial is being conducted could intimidate persons participating in the trial in which the demonstrators have an interest. This would make a mockery of what ought to be a fair trial. The action of any individual or group which could be construed as intimidating must, therefore, be frowned upon. The fact is, whether intended or not, demonstrations in the proximity of a courthouse can be intimidating, and, therefore, should not be tolerated.
There is need for provision in our laws to forbid unauthorised assembly within prescribed distances of our courthouses. This would only require adding courthouses to the existing legislation that so protects Gordon House and Jamaica House. There is a need to prevent mob rule from influencing the course of justice.
There are sound principles upon which the sub judice is predicated. If the influence of the MEDIA can be restrained in pursuit of justice, it is not asking too much to similarly restrain the mob.
LUCIUS C. WHITE