Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
26 November 2013

Human Rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa acquitted in ZImbabwe

FREEDOM UNDER LAW

MEDIA STATEMENT: 26 NOVEMBER 2013

Beatrice Mtetwa acquitted

Today Harare Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa delivered a verdict of not guilty in the trial of prominent Zimbabwe human-rights lawyer and Freedom Under Law director Beatrice Mtetwa.

Ms Mtetwa had faced charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice by her conduct toward officers who were searching the house of a client of hers, an official from the opposition party of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

She was arrested on 17 March this year and has appeared in court on numerous occasions since then. [See the FUL website for the FUL media release dated March 17, 2013, as also the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights statement dated March 26, 2013.]

According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Bulletin and other sources, the magistrate concluded that Ms Mtetwa had done nothing to interfere with the investigations the police were conducting. She found the police evidence contradictory and insufficient to put Ms Mtetwa on her defence. An inspection in loco cast further doubt on the State case.

The magistrate also declared that photographing the scene would not have constituted the offence charged and that, in any event, forensic examination of Ms Mtetwa’s phone produced no evidence that photographs of the scene had been taken. The magistrate found there was no evidence that Ms Mtetwa had stopped or interfered with the search the police were conducting, and acquitted her at the end of the State case.

Freedom Under Law applauds a courageous judicial decision.

www.freedomunderlaw.orgToday Harare Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa delivered a verdict of not guilty in the trial of prominent Zimbabwe human-rights lawyer and Freedom Under Law director Beatrice Mtetwa.

Ms Mtetwa had faced charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice by her conduct toward officers who were searching the house of a client of hers, an official from the opposition party of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

She was arrested on 17 March this year and has appeared in court on numerous occasions since then. [See the FUL website for the FUL media release dated March 17, 2013, as also the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights statement dated March 26, 2013.]

According to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Bulletin and other sources, the magistrate concluded that Ms Mtetwa had done nothing to interfere with the investigations the police were conducting. She found the police evidence contradictory and insufficient to put Ms Mtetwa on her defence. An inspection in loco cast further doubt on the State case.

The magistrate also declared that photographing the scene would not have constituted the offence charged and that, in any event, forensic examination of Ms Mtetwa’s phone produced no evidence that photographs of the scene had been taken. The magistrate found there was no evidence that Ms Mtetwa had stopped or interfered with the search the police were conducting, and acquitted her at the end of the State case.

Freedom Under Law applauds a courageous judicial decision.

www.freedomunderlaw.org

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