Kangaroos move by hopping from one place to another. They have powerful hind legs that support these long jumps. This image paints the nature of kangaroo courts.
Kangaroo courts usurp the legal process of a fair hearing. They try cases, often, without regard to the principles of natural justice. Natural justice is fairness. The Court system we have dictates that ‘an accused is innocent until proven guilty’. The accused also has a right to be heard, defended, and punished for a crime/offence expressed in the law and whose punishment is prescribed.Characteristics of Kangaroo courts
1. Judges may be incompetent or clearly compromised.
Ordinarily, a judge who discovers that he/she has actual or constructive interest in the case must recuse himself/herself from the hearing.
When a judge recuses himself/herself, it means that he/she has opted out of trying/hearing the case because the ‘interest’ alleged may blur his/her judgment. Opting out means he/she avoids bias in the case.
Kangaroo courts are manned by judges who have or develop personal interest in a case to gain from it at the expense of the accused.
2. Gross violation of procedure and legal precedents
Ordinary courts follow procedure. Each jurisdiction has established principles which determine how it handles court issues.
In our common law system, we borrow from and depend heavily on previous judgments in cases with similar issues to be determined. This is called precedence.
Kangaroo courts create their own laws according to the cases they handle and at the prevailing time. These laws favour the judge or the accusing party and do not give the accused the opportunity to defend himself/herself thoroughly, or at all. We can safely say that they employ little logic.
3. Conclusive evidence of unfairness during the hearing.
It is easy for any lay person to tell that a panel of judges has adjudicated fairly or otherwise. Kangaroo courts act on personal attachments which any other person can comprehend.
4. Unofficial court hearings not sanctioned by the law.
Kangaroo courts may be staged away from designated court premises, conduct trials without proper authorization or with no reference to the legal structure of a court. Their processes exhibit hasty proceedings and allow perjury that any lay man can perceive.
5. They have a pre-determined verdict detrimental to the accused. They intentionally ignore actual evidence in favour of the accused.
Our legal system is adversarial in nature. The precinct of assuming innocence until proven guilty is sacred to an adversarial system. The accuser must prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. That way, justice will be seen to be done.
Kangaroo courts are copycats. They may serve the immediate interests and emotions of those affected but in the long run, weaken the judicial system.
The elements of hasty trials deprive an accused person of the right to be heard and judged on merit. This haste, sometimes, sends innocence persons to wrongful sentences and unfair punishment.
BY ATUHAIRWE AGRACE
This article appears in our digital law newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 9, Issue 1 of September 1st, 2017
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