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Narian Chengiah Naidoo
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The Honourary Magistrates

04 March 2014, 07:57

In South Africa they created a cadre of honourary magistrates, whose appointments were made on the basis of the affirmative action policy. Competency had very little to do with it. I remember a case where a fellow was prosecuted for illicitly distilling alcohol. He had got wind of the impending raid on his premises, so he had managed to get rid of all the alcohol, and the raw materials, but it was a bit more difficult to dispose of the still itself. His defense lawyer argued that making liquor was an offence but owning a still was not. 

The honourary magistrate however convicted him and handed down a sentence of six months, on the basis that even though no alcohol was actually found on the premises but he was in the possession of the necessary equipment. Now six month was the maximum sentence these magistrates were empowered to give but the defense then said, “Your Worship, why don’t you give him ten years?” The magistrate was amazed, the defense lawyer asking for a long sentence? He had never heard of such a thing and he retorted, “Whatever are you thinking of, the crime committed carries a maximum sentence of six months. On what basis do you suggest he should receive ten years?” The defense lawyer replied, “It is easy, all you have to do is convict him of rape.” “But this is absurd,” said the magistrate. “As far as I know, he hasn’t committed any rape.” “No,” explained the defense lawyer “but as far as you are concerned, he has the necessary equipment.” 

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