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Ideas and Opinions – Many things

FeaturesIdeas and Opinions - Many things

“The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things.” – Alice in Wonderland –

An object lesson

I would like to tell you a story about a businessman, who lived in San Ignacio. His name is Escandar Bedran. It will be a short story. In fact, it will be only a glimpse into the mind of the man.

Escandar embarked on many business ventures and all of them were successful. Was he lucky? What was the secret of his success?

“No secret, at all,” said my good friend Telford Vernon, who was, also, one of Escandar’s many friends. He made friends very easily because, he had an angelic disposition and, was the soul of courtesy.

Telford told me that there were two things he observed about Escandar. He cultivated the people whose minds he respected, and he picked their brains. He had a habit of beginning a conversation asking, “Bwai, weh yu tink bout….” Then, he would give his friend the bare bones of the scheme he was contemplating. Escandar was a good listener. He already had his basic plans, now he would refine them, based on the valuable information, provided by his friend.

There was no secret to Escandar Bedran’s success. It started with his having a good mind for business. Then, he prepared himself by seeking and obtaining knowledge and information about the project. He tried to find out as much as he could about his undertaking, before he made his move.

Come to think about it, this is a good object lesson for all of us. Perhaps, some of the initiatives undertaken by those in high places would have been more effective, if there were wider consultations.

About criminals

Of what use is a criminal to society? Does he produce anything? Does he perform any service? Does he contribute anything to society? The answer to all these questions is no. But he is not idle. The criminal is active. He goes about his business. His business is in dealing out pain and suffering. That is how he makes his living.

So I ask the question again. Of what use is a criminal to society? The answer is none, unless we are a society of masochists. What is to be done? Simple. We have laws, with sanctions for breaking them. Enforce the laws; punish the criminals. Crime does not pay!

Well, not so fast, my friend. First, you have to apprehend them. Then, you have to find witnesses to their crimes. Then, the witnesses have to testify in court and, be cross examined.

Well, not so fast, my friend. Where are the witnesses? The witnesses cannot be found; or they have amnesia and can’t remember anything, or they are in the hospital, or they are deceased.

Can you imagine how a good, productive law-abiding citizen must feel, when he suffers a personal loss or, when he or someone near and dear to him is made a victim of a criminal act and there is no redress? What are we to do, if there is no justice? We have two choices. Do nothing and let the criminals rule, or resort to other means to obtain justice? But, there are no other lawful means.

I have been treating a serious subject with undue levity, for which I apologize, most humbly. So, now, I have to ask a very serious question. What is the price of justice in Belize? Is the price too high for it to be procured?

Crooks and thieves

I contend that crooks and thieves are the same. Thieves usually deal in small things and crooks in large but, the basic nature of crookery and thievery is very much alike.

If the stories I have been hearing are to be believed, we have crooks in high places of authority and trust. A crook is really a thief, whose dishonest acts involve large sums of money. Nobody refers to a bank robber in the same vein as a Minister of government who awards a contract to a favored individual who pays him money or contributes to his political campaign. This is called corruption but, it is just the same as stealing, so, the Minister is a thief.

This piece is not intended to be about corruption or dishonest Ministers, only about making the point, that if you steal something of little value or, if you arrange a dishonest deal, both acts make you a thief.

Last week a young woman was tried for stealing food products from a store valued at $5.50. It was her first offence, as far as the magistrate was concerned. She may or may not have pilfered things from stores before, but we need not consider that. What is important is that she pleaded guilty, and what is more important is, that a wise and compassionate judge sentenced her to two months community services. The magistrate would have been justified to award a minimum sentence of a short time in prison, which would have made her a convict and ruined her life.

I think that our judiciary should give serious thought to a policy of keeping first offenders accused of minor crimes out of jail, provided they plead guilty. I am in favor of judges having a wide discretion in awarding sentences for such offenses.

On the subject of guilty pleas, it occurred to me that our criminal justice system would be improved if accused persons were encouraged to plead guilty (when they are) on the promise of leniency in sentencing. Also, it would discourage accused persons (who are guilty) to decide to be tried, if judges made it clear that they would then receive the maximum penalty when they are convicted.

There would be more guilty pleas and fewer trials, if the proposed policy were adopted. I don’t suppose that some members of the legal profession would favor such a policy, but the criminal justice system was not instituted to serve attorneys.

These proposals are put forward, knowing that it has been established as a fact of life, that confession is the first step to rehabilitation.

Judicial principles

The quality of the advocacy is what determines the outcome of most lawsuits. So that judgments tend to favor the wealthy over the less affluent. Therefore, as the importance of the quality of the advocacy diminishes, the quality of justice will increase. The quality of the advocacy will be of less consequence when judgments are rendered based on judicial principles.

There are many judicial principles, yet to be discovered and established, which will improve the quality of justice. Shouldn’t this be one of the objectives of a Bar Association?

I submit it should be established as a juridical principle, that any act by the government in the national interest and for the common good should stand, unless it can be proved otherwise.

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