I would like to comment on an aspect of Mrs. Ella Kauhue's article "Women, Crime & Justice" which appear in the Solomon Star newspaper on the private view column on the 21st of October 2009. I applaud Mrs. Kauhue for exercising her right to freedom of expression in addressing her view with respect to the above caption. Mrs. Kauhue has been observing Court decisions on rape cases and was horrified with some of the decisions made by the High Court and particularly the recent one that sentenced a man guilty of rape for only 20 months in prison.
I totally agree that the aftermath effects of rape which the victims go through are devastating and terrible as highlight by Mrs. Kauhue. No person in his or her right mind would say otherwise. I also agree that the law in this respect should be stretched (in a fair and reasonable manner) to protect the vulnerable members of the society, the women.
While I strongly agree with Mrs. Kauhue in this respect I could not resist the temptation to respond to an aspect of her article which seems rather an attack on the legal system and on those who interpreted the law.
Firstly, I respect Mrs. Kauhue's Constitutional right to freedom of expression but I urge Mrs. Kauhue to avoid secondary sources of information such as media or other non-legal articles when criticizing decisions of the Court. I recommend Mrs. Kauhue to go to court the next time any judgment or any sentence hearing on a rape case is in process or read a copy of the judgments. Only there and then you will get the core reasons for which Magistrates, High Court and Appeal of Court Judges made their decisions. But to judge the judicial system and its judges based on articles floating around in the streets of Honiara is totally inappropriate.
I'm not saying that the particular 20 months sentencing of the Court in the recent rape case is correct and neither do I say otherwise. That is a matter for the court. My point is, judging our legal system and the judges as "a system that has no strength to stand up for justice on behalf of the vulnerable people in this society particularly women and girl victims" based on a shallow and unreliable sources and observation is absurd. It only gives a bad impression about the judicial system which is far from the truth.
Secondly, to briefly clarify for Mrs. Kauhue's interest, unlike murder, sentencing on a rape case can be determined by factors such as the gravity of the offence, aggravating factors such as used of a weapon etc and mitigating factors such as first time offender, guilty plea, sole breadwinner etc. They are the medium used for a fair play in the Courtroom by the lawyers and the judges.
Therefore a person given a guilty verdict in a rape case does not always automatically get the maximum penalty. The Court is not accountable and answerable for giving credit to the accused for having no previous conviction and admitting the offence because these are factors sanctioned by our law to be considered by the Judges. Whether we like it or not that is how the law dictates.
Thirdly, I understand Mrs. Kauhue's limitation with regards to law as she mentioned in her article and as such I do not blame her for writing it. I presume that it is an understanding most of our general public might have about the law and the judicial system of our country. I personally feel that such article reflects the need to have our people kept informed of the law and about our judicial system. The law applies to every citizen (not only the lawyers or the judicial people) and therefore it is imperative that our people should know about it. If awareness of such kind is in progress I salute. If it there none I'm pretty sure we need one.
Fourthly, to the women of Solomon Islands, do not allow emotions and personal disgust of one Court case (or any other case for that matter) to negatively overshadow the effort our judicial system has put into bringing your issues into light. Your issues are not only being dealt with on the national level. We are joined with the international community in your struggle and with the ratification of international conventions such as CEDAW and other relevant conventions our law is not cheap and your justice is not denied. Keep on barking as Mrs. Kauhue emphasized and do bark on the right tree.
Lastly, I would like to make clear that I do not intend to defend rapists or the crime of rape neither do I intend to offend victims of rape or neglect their ordeals.
Republic of Vanuatu
Women, Crime & Justice
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of Chris Rarumae and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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