Op-Ed: In The Bahamas, is Justice blind or is she just cross-eyed?
We often hear the adage that justice is blind. This statement refers to the impartial and objectiveness that justice is supposed to adhere to. No doubt you have seen a statue of a blindfolded woman holding a scale in one hand. This Lady Justice is blindfolded because justice isn’t biased. She doesn’t care about race, gender, religion, wealth, status or political preferences.
Her only care is that everyone is treated the same regardless. No special favours. No Special Treatment.
Blind justice expresses an ideal that extraneous factors should not influence the justice system in a country; everyone is equal before the law. However, recent events have led me to question whether justice in The Bahamas is blind or is she cross-eyed.
At the outset, let me say that no matter who you are, you must respect the law. In the criminal justice system, if the law is broken, the law must be applied equally and fairly. This means that justice is to be impartial and objective.
I begin my examination with the actions of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. As police officers are the first to make contact with the accused and the victim, their actions greatly affect the operation of the entire criminal justice system and influences our perception of whether justice is blind or cross-eyed.
It is expected that the police will treat accused alike; without preference or discrimination, regardless of identity, wealth, power, social status, position, or circumstances.
Yesterday, I watched once again in dismay, as I have done on many occasions, as the police escorted three young female tourists to court handcuffed. They, as many have been, were forced to do the “walk of shame”.
Days after the three tourists were filmed jumping a fence to get to Cabbage Beach, National Security Minister Marvin Dames maintained that anyone found in breach of the COVID-19 emergency orders will suffer the consequences and asserted no one is above the law. Did he bite his tongue as his mouth formed this obvious lie?
My mind immediately went back to the stark contrast images of Jonathan Ash, also accused of breaking emergency orders, running into court, unencumbered; no handcuffs, no shackles with a cell phone in his back pocket.
After Ash’s immature display outside the Magistrate’s Court, Dames defended the government’s main witness in two high-profile cases and sought to justify his 30-meter dash up the court steps.
Immediately, there arose in me a righteous indignation over the treatment of the female tourists and the countless men and women hauled before the court not only handcuffed but shackled like slaves being showcased in the marketplace. Today, I advocate that the recent actions of the Royal Bahamas Police Force as it relates to Jonathan Ash, is a prime example that the justice system is cross-eyed. Police officers’ misaligned treatment of other accused persons proves that the justice they administer is not blind.
Comparing Ash’s treatment to that of others accused of similar crimes, led me to another flashback regarding the Attorney General’s Office reluctance to prosecute Mr. Ash’s other questionable activities.
For example, why was Ash not charged with operating a business without a valid business license? Does not the law of The Bahamas require one to have one in order to operate a business? And what’s more why was he not charged with selling liquor without a liquor license? Why was he brought before the court on only the issue of operating a non essential business during curfew? Before or during the curfew Mr. Ash had no legal authorization to be selling liquor. This is a criminal offense.
And if this is not bad enough, the Customs Department carried out a raid on the illegal liquor business establishment operated by Ash and confiscated liquor for which no customs duty was paid. This is another offensible crime, yet the AG’s office brought no charges in this matter.
The most recent of the cross-eyed symptoms of our justice system relates to a civil suit filed by Mr. Ash against the Customs Department and the Attorney General in which Mr. Ash was seeking the return of the confiscated liquor which he claimed to be his. This was a clear indication that Mr. Ash committed perjury
as he previously denied involvement in the liquor business and said that he was only there to pay monies to persons who worked for him. Yet another criminal offense in which no charges were filed.
In reality, in this country, many (especially poor young black men) do not experience justice that is fair, objective and without bias. The system does not afford them the same opportunities that it seems so hell bent on affording Jonathan Ash.
These instances certainly leave one with the impression that justice is not blind. Perhaps the only blindness Lady Justice suffers is the blindness to the abuses occurring right under her own nose.