FRANCISTOWN: Curiosity knows no bounds-that is what transpired after an attorney representing an accused person who pleaded guilty to manslaughter asked the judge Wednesday.
The attorney, Charles Tlagae, was representing Teko Bareki, 44, who without malice aforethought killed his uncle, Letang Mbunyane, 64, during a traditional beverage drinking spree at Jamataka village in the Central Administrative District of Botswana on May 27 in 2005. After Tlagae finished his submissions on plea in mitigation, he out of curiosity asked Justice Barnabas Nyamadzabo what the courts in the country were doing to make sure that the positive messages that are contained in the judgements that the courts churn out week in and week out reach their intended audience especially the communities where serious offences such as murder and manslaughter had occurred.
Outlining his reasons for having asked Nyamadzabo the question, Tlagae said it is commonplace that the courts always pass stiffer sentences that they say will act as deterrents to would-be offenders. Tlagae stated that on the contrary, serious offences continue to increase in Botswana.
He however, added that due to financial constraints and not everyone having access to the media (broadcasting, publishing, and the internet) amongst other reasons, to read, watch or listen to the judgements that the courts pass, the offences still persist. In response, Nyamadzabo said in the past, circuit courts (courts that sit in more than one place in a judicial district) used to conduct cases in places where offences occurred so that members of the community in the countryside could appreciate Court processes and judgements that the courts pass. Nyamadzabo however, said that the practice was stopped in 2008 following the introduction of the new High Court rules.
On the positive side, Nyamadzabo stated that the Administration of Justice (AoJ) is still looking at the issue of taking the courts to communities where crimes have allegedly been committed resources and other logistical issues permitting. The judge was in agreement with Tlagae that taking the courts to the communities will go a long way in reducing the rising numbers of serious crimes in the country. This however, does not mean that circuit courts in the country have stopped altogether. According to some AoJ sources who are not authorised to speak to the media, judges sometimes go to Maun and other places to preside over matters.
The AoJ sources however said that the circuit courts are not widely used as they were in the past. Speaking to Mmegi after the court session, Tlagae said that taking the courts to the people will boost public education efforts about the consequences of criminal activities which may lead to their decrease.