The Kern Spencer verdict: '...the law is a ass -- a idiot!'

Thursday, March 27, 2014    

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"IF the law supposes that," said Mr Bumble, "the law is a ass — a idiot!" This quotation from Charles Dickens' 1838 novel, Oliver Twist, is hard to avoid when considering Monday's verdict in the Kern Spencer case.

The reaction of the general public, interestingly, is in sharp contrast with the murder verdict in the Vybz Kartel case. Most people seemed satisfied that justice triumphed in the latter, but not so in the former.

We have no doubt that the long history of political corruption in Jamaica is driving the view that Mr Kern Spencer is guilty of corruption in the Cuban light bulb fiasco. The public has long wanted the scalp of a politician and, it seems, any politician will do at this point.

There are some who believe that a guilty verdict would have been further powerful public relations for the image of the justice system coming so soon after the Kartel case.

But as tempting as it is to dismiss Mr Spencer and his co-accused, Ms Coleen Wright, as being guilty as charged, we must urge caution. We are a nation of laws and not of men. That means even when we are baying for blood, the law must prevail. It's the only protection available to all of us.

We cannot ignore the fact that the same justice system that tried Kartel and his co-accused for the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams is the same justice system that tried Kern Spencer and his co-accused in the light bulb case. We cannot abandon the system when it does not suit us.

For that very reason, we are strongly in favour of the prosecution being given the right of appeal, similar to the defence. This will allow a case to be tried to its final conclusion. Right now, as it is, "the law is a ass -- a idiot!"

The Spencer case is an eminent example of the need for appeal by the prosecution. For, even though he was found not guilty by Senior Resident Magistrate Ms Judith Pusey, too many sections of the populace still hold him and Ms Wright as guilty. That is manifestly unfair to them.

Moreover, the earlier contretemps between Ms Pusey and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ms Paula Llewellyn — in which the DPP prevailed -- has fuelled speculation as to whether that had anything to do with the verdict. Naturally, we would find it difficult indeed to believe that Ms Pusey would subject the law to such abject levels of pettiness.

Of course, Ms Pusey could have done herself and the justice system a great favour by expounding to greater detail the reasons for her no-case verdict. Her estimated five-minute announcement would have left the country hungry for more.

And because justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done, even were the brief explanation sufficient in law, she had a duty, we submit, to do more.





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