Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Spot fines - The Experts speak

The debate over the legality of police spot fines is continuing. The Judicial Service Code of Ethics Regulation Statutory Instrument Number 107 of 2012 forbids judges to make public comments that may be deemed to affect outcomes of any proceedings.

Experts, however, say Justice Francis Bere was within the confines of the law in articulating constitutional issues during the official opening of the new legal year.
Spot finesb - The Experts speak
According to Section 13 sub-section 3 of the Judicial Service Code of Ethics Regulation, Statutory Instrument Number 107 of 2012, “a judicial officer shall not make any public comment that may affect or may reasonably be construed to affect the outcome of any proceedings or impair their fairness, or make any comment that might compromise a fair trial or hearing."

A constitutional lawyer Tazorora Musarurwa, however, says the official opening of the new legal year is the correct platform for judicial officers to articulate constitutional issues.

Another constitutional lawyer Professor Lovemore Madhuku says while Justice Bere’s pronouncement is not legally binding, it is of persuasive value and can be cited as reference in the court of law.

On Tuesday, the Zimbabwe Republic Police reacted to Justice Bere’s pronouncement saying what he said was his personal opinion since it was not a ruling as there was no complainant.

However, Professor Madhuku is of the opinion that the police should not have responded to Justice Bere’s pronouncement in public but to get a declaratory order seeking clarity on what the judge said.

Section 356 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act allows the police to collect deposit fines from suspects who would have committed minor crimes and admitted guilty to the charges.
However, the law says the payment of spot fines is not compulsory and if anyone is not satisfied he/she can approach the courts.
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