DAVE BHUJUN Former Assistant Commissioner of Prisons
I refer to the article which appeared in ‘Week-End’ a fortnight ago concerning the poignant story of a lady who is a victim of continuous violence on the part of her spouse. In her testimony, she avers that she has been assaulted by her husband over a dozen times in spite of a Protection Order issued by court.
Every time she has been physically assaulted, the matter was referred to the police. The accused has been thereafter sentenced to one or two weeks imprisonment for each count after which he started inflicting violence on her after returning from prison. This is reprehensible and disgraceful. It is also an aberration that the Protection Order has not served its purpose because instead of offering security to her, it has apparently rather given a licence to the perpetrator to use more violence.
The duty of the court is to protect society and any sentence awarded should not only serve as punishment but also act as a deterrent which is far from it in this particular case and many more cases appearing before courts. In view of the foregoing, I humbly propose the following : (a) The introduction of electronic monitoring bracelet in order to check the whereabouts of those who do not comply with a Protection Order issued by a court of justice. This could be also extended to other categories like sexual predators/offenders and child rapists until the government decides to introduce capital punishment as is the wish of several Mauritians, if ever it comes out of its slumber. (b) The imposition of harsher sentences against law breakers and anti social elements. Longer custodial sentences are, sine qua non, to discourage offenders and potential offenders from transgressing the law. In the same breath, society will feel safer and will be protected for relatively longer periods. It is also felt that the remission system, i.e one third of the sentence they benefit be waived in many cases. There was a particular case when the Commission of the Prerogative of Mercy has intervened and given pardon to a person undergoing eighteen years imprisonment. We all know that the prisoner was set free EIGHT YEARS earlier after benefitting remission by the said commission. This is really contrary to the verdict of the court which has sent the culprit behind bars. If the murderer has shown no mercy on the victim whom he burnt alive then why show mercy on him? (c) One of the conditions of a Protection Order must, de facto, include restriction to approach the victim in order to avoid direct contact with the former. It is being wondered whether this was applicable in this particular case and if so, how is it that the offender has been acting with impunity under the nose of the authorities concerned ? (d) It is no secret that our prisons are considered as five-star institutions. There is a general feeling that it should offer a different treatment to habitual offenders and hardened criminals unlike first offenders. It is also the grim reality that many prefer prison life and live on taxpayers’ money than working hard outside to earn a honest living. Then how to explain that many found behind the bars consider our prisons as ‘lakaz mama’ and are reluctant to go back to society after the expiry of their sentence while others have been imprisoned over twenty times? In other countries, many refrain from returning back to prisons because of the difficult conditions prevailing thereat but in our paradise island, it is unfortunately quite the contrary. (e) Finally, it is imperative that our lawmakers and legislators reconsider all existing laws in case these become outdated or not serving their purpose just as the Children’s Bill which is being reviewed and debated in parliament instead of waiting for things to worsen before it is too late. Had this piece of legislation been introduced earlier, many tragedies could have been avoided. Better late than never. I end on this famous note « There are people who watch things happen There are people who wonder what happened There are people who make things happen. »