Monday, September 20, 2021

Judge Moroka calls for prioritization of fair trials

Francistown High Court Judge President Lot Moroka says that it is important for the courts of law in the country to always bear in mind the fact that the demand for fair trial must always triumph over the urge to fight crime. 

Presiding over a case in which he convicted a former police officer Atlholang Mojanki for a single count of murder last week Justice Moroka said Botswana’s criminal justice system is primarily aimed at punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent.

“The high standard of proof that is required in criminal trials is perhaps best encapsulated in the adage “It is better that ten guilty persons go free than one innocent person being convicted” he said.

The judge emphasized that the social consequences of a wrongful conviction are more socially costly than the consequences of a wrongful acquittal. He said this is particularly so in murder cases where capital punishment is in Botswana’s statutory books. He also explained that this is the main reason why the country’s justice system has so many common law and statutory safeties against wrongful conviction.

“The fountain of these fair trial principles is section 10 of the constitution of Botswana which provides that “If any person is charged with a criminal offence, then unless the charge is withdrawn, the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established or recognized by law,” he said.

He said subsection (a) of the same section provides that “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until or she is proved or has pleaded guilty. He further explained that sub section (b) also stipulates that “a person shall be informed as soon as reasonably practicable, in a language that he or she understands and in detail of the nature of the offence charged.

“To complete the process, fair trial also speaks to the disposition of the trial judge. The Constitution bases fair trial on among others an independent and impartial court. It is hard to imagine a fair trial with a biased Judge. Fairness to the accused is an overriding requirement to which all the rules of evidence in criminal trial conform,” The judge explained

Meanwhile Moroka convicted Mojanki for the 2014 murder of Bokani Sox, a nurse who was based in Nyangabwe Referral Hospital. The deceased was his ex-girlfriend. The accused had pleaded not guilty to the offence. 

The state was represented by Carlos Diundu from the Directorate of Public Prosecution(DPP) while the accused was represented by private attorney Kgololesego Segabo. The matter has been set for the 30 June 2021 where there will be extenuation and mitigation by the defence.

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