Thief gets only five times original sentence


27-June-2012

Selwyn Louis Marie was originally sentenced to two or three years jail by a magistrate’s court in each of the four cases he faced. The court then ordered that the sentences run concurrently, so Marie stood to be in jail a total of three or even two if he got a remission.

State counsel Lansinglu Rongmei who presented the four cases before the Supreme Court for revision called the earlier sentences illegal because they were below the minimum provided for by the law and were to run concurrently while the law has been revised to prescribe they run one after the other.

Marie – who was not represented – had broken into offices and homes in Belonie, Ma Constance and St Louis and stolen so many items that due the length of their list, we can only hope to publish it in the Seychelles Weekend Nation, along with further related interesting details.

President James Michel has been saying that during his district meetings, the public called for sentences to run one after the other instead of along each other.

Home Affairs and Transport Minister Joel Morgan said last week there is now an outcry for courts to stop being lenient and to avoid releasing suspects on bail, giving them fresh chances to harass people.

Mr Gaswaga delivered his judgment before a packed court where most of the people present were awaiting to hear his determination of a case in which Jonathan Knowles – now serving an 11-year sentence for the unintended death of Jemmy Simeon – had applied to be released on bail pending his appeal.

Through his lawyer Joel Camille, Knowles argued his trial before Mr Gaswaga was unfair because the judge accepted the evidence of the late Aubrey Monthy, whom Mr Gaswaga played tennis with in 2009.

Mr Camille also told the court that Mr Gaswaga lives in a house rented by the judiciary from Aubrey Monthy’s father.

But the judge said in court there is a disturbing practice of some court users, “especially after losing a case – to invade the privacy of judges by following them up in their private life to see what they do, where they go and who they associate with.

“In this case the accused’s people spent time following the trial Judge and gathering information about where he played tennis in 2009 and with whom. They also went a step further to establish where the trial judge resides and the owner of the house. Who knows, next time it might be the shopkeeper where the judge shops or the doctor and nurses that usually treat him and his family.

“Yes, Seychelles is a small jurisdiction where almost everyone knows everybody, and all the people, judges inclusive, are bound to meet in one way or another at some point in time and share the same facilities in their day-to-day life. It would be very difficult for a judge to know which one of these people will next come to his court, in future, as a party or witness in a case.

“However, if a party to a case or a witness with an interest in the case like a virtual complainant or a member of the deceased’s family is well known or very close to the trial judge, the trial judge may recue himself and decline to hear the case if he feels that justice may not be done or be seen to be done.”

Mr Gaswaga said there are guidelines to help judges reach decisions on such matters.
“But a situation where a judge is confronted with witnesses including one with whom he has played tennis before cannot be held to be a ground for the accused to be unfairly tried. It is equally immaterial even if it is established that the same Judge resides in a house belonging to the father of that witness.

“Merely alleging an unfair trial is not enough. Courts of law do not work basing on suspicions or assumptions but concrete evidence. The applicant needed to demonstrate that the alleged association of the trial Judge with that witness had an effect on the manner in which the trial was conducted as well as the outcome thereof. There must be certainty and not presumptions before pointing the finger,” he said, adding evidence of the witness was not only tested in cross-examination but also corroborated by another witness.

“Aubrey Monthy himself was an independent witness and not related to the family of the deceased,” he said.

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