Jus­tice re­form starts with the po­lice

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - OPINION -

The need for jus­tice re­forms has been some­thing we’ve been hear­ing about for many years, with ev­ery ad­min­is­tra­tion try­ing to ad­dress it, but with lit­tle to show for it at the end of of­fice.

There is no doubt that our ju­di­cial sys­tem is trans­par­ent, of­ten­times fair and oc­ca­sion­ally swift. In fact, the Cyprus le­gal sys­tem is prob­a­bly one of the best in the world. The prob­lem lies in its proper im­ple­men­ta­tion, and where pos­si­ble, con­sid­er­a­tion of spe­cial cir­cum­stances.

With fewer peo­ple end­ing up be­hind bars, of­fend­ers in civil cases could be pun­ished us­ing other forms of rep­ri­mand, most often through a com­bi­na­tion of a fi­nan­cial penalty and even com­mu­nity work pro­vided to state ser­vices or NGOs.

This will help de­con­gest the prison fa­cil­ity and also help bet­ter man­age the re-in­te­gra­tion into so­ci­ety of crim­i­nals and cap­i­tal of­fend­ers.

For this to hap­pen, the ju­di­cial sys­tem needs two al­lies, which is where the prob­lem lies.

Civil ser­vants are very often rigid when it comes to de­ci­sions that may be cru­cial to a case, made worse in re­cent years by a sense of un­will­ing­ness to take any re­spon­si­bil­ity for their ac­tions.

A sim­ple re­ply of a phone call and try­ing to re­solve a cit­i­zen’s con­cerns or queries would go a long way in re­duc­ing red tape, which is in­flated by the (in)ac­tions of the gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees them­selves.

The other pil­lar is the “long arm of the law” it­self, the po­lice force.

It’s no use in­tro­duc­ing a “neigh­bour­hood bobby” if the friendly po­lice of­fi­cer has lit­tle to go on, in the way of the right tools or in­stru­ments to en­force the law where needed.

The in­abil­ity to tap into the con­ver­sa­tions or even the fi­nan­cials of well-known drug lords and un­der­world lead­ers, who often hide be­hind the pro­tec­tion of pri­vacy laws or a bar­rier of politi­cians and lawyers, does lit­tle to in­stil a sense of con­fi­dence and jus­tice in the pub­lic eye.

The po­lice don’t need much re­form ei­ther.

What needs to change is the sys­tem that al­lows for bet­ter re­cruit­ment of com­pe­tent peo­ple, vet­ting and prose­cu­tion of cor­rupt of­fi­cers (and state of­fi­cials) and util­is­ing spe­cial skills that are oth­er­wise avail­able only in the pri­vate sec­tor, while also im­prov­ing the image of the po­lice as an in­sti­tu­tion that could be trusted, for ex­am­ple, by sim­ply plac­ing knowl­edge­able peo­ple to man the phone lines, which is the first line of re­sponse.

An­other im­prove­ment would be for the po­lice to be seen to adopt gen­der equal­ity in prac­tice and not just in words.

By sim­ply plac­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of fe­male of­fi­cers be­hind desks, with few end­ing up “on the street”, does lit­tle to con­vince half the pop­u­la­tion that fe­male of­fi­cers can do the job that their male of­fi­cers are called to do, per­haps even bet­ter, with a touch of hu­man­ity.

Fi­nally, the po­lice lacks in highly qual­i­fied of­fi­cers, as re­cruits from the academy (if they make it past the anachro­nis­tic ‘height and weight’ stan­dard) join the force at en­try level and then rise up the aca­demic lad­der with the ul­ti­mate goal of bet­ter pro­mo­tions. In fact, the op­po­site should be true.

Where there are highly-skilled pro­fes­sion­als or sci­en­tists in the pri­vate sec­tor, re­gard­less of gen­der, re­li­gion or mi­nor­ity, these should be en­cour­aged to join the po­lice by way of head-hunt­ing or even by­pass­ing the re­quire­ment to com­plete the full academy course, where the can­di­date’s knowl­edge and abil­ity to solve a case could be far greater and more ef­fi­cient than the level of the train­ers them­selves.

For­eign in­vestors and vis­i­tors need to be re­as­sured that crime is be­ing tack­led ef­fec­tively and that the safety of our so­ci­ety is in ca­pa­ble hands.

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