Monday, 23 May 2016

Not standing for the magistrate

in court is a sign of more than disrespect. 
There is an opinion column in today's paper about the failure of some Muslims to stand in court when the magistrate entered. She asked them to do so. They refused. The magistrate allowed them to stay. 
She had no choice - and they knew it. To have had them removed from court would have provoked further disruption and perhaps violence. It would have laid her open to accusations of "bias" from a sympathetic media.
I used to sit on a tribunal. When we entered those present stood. It felt strange to me but it is part of the court process so I accepted it. In any case the process is mutual. It acknowledges the presence of each other and the procedures of the court. I can remember one occasion on which a man using crutches struggled to stand and then sit again. The head of the tribunal thanked him quietly and said, "You are excused from standing again."
It was the right thing to do.
The Muslims say they don't stand for anyone but Allah. Really? I wonder what happens in ISIS territory. Do they not stand for their leaders there? How do they maintain discipline without that sort of thing? 
The men who refused to stand were there to "support" five men who are accused of trying to leave Australia by boat in order to travel via Indonesia to join IS and fight. It is a case which has raised considerable discussion in the media. There are varying views on whether their actions can be proven and, if so, how severe their punishment should be. From discussions around me it would seem that many locals believe they are guilty and that they should be locked up and the key thrown away.
My own concern is more about why people want to do these things. I met a man once who had spent his life in first the army and then in mercenary roles around the world. He was a strange man who made me feel intensely uncomfortable. He thrived on danger. He liked fighting. Had he killed people? "Probably". It didn't seem to bother him. In the end he succumbed to a very nasty medical condition which robbed him of his capacity to speak. There was not a lot of sympathy for him and people questioned why I had even bothered to try and help him communicate in some other way. (His entire body was affected and he could not write either.) 
Other people said he had "what was coming to him". Perhaps. I don't know. It isn't my role to judge. If people need help to communicate then it is my job to provide it. I can't pick and choose.  
I suppose that is what bothers me. The men in court are picking and choosing. A female magistrate would have had even less chance than a male magistrate of getting the men to stand. When they left though the men would have obeyed other laws - such as road traffic laws. They may have gone to the ATM and withdrawn money from a bank account on which they earn interest or gone back to jobs where they pay tax used to pay for  such things as the courts they refuse to recognise. 
I was asked why I had helped the former mercenary communicate. The answer was "I don't have a choice. A means of communication is a basic human right." Is that wrong?


Melodye Traupel said...

In the U.S.A. not standing for the judge, or tribunal, etc. can lead to a jail cell with a hefty fine. It's just decency and common civility. How disrespectful.

Yes, you are right. The means to communicate is a basic human right. If the defendants didn't speak English or very limited English, were they given the services of a translator? I am inclined to think so.


Jodiebodie said...

The men in court who refused to stand were not following Islam as I understand it, which teaches Muslims to follow the Qur'an but also to follow the laws of the country in which they live. The latter takes precedence. By not standing on request to acknowledge the magistrate, these men are not showing respect for either the legal process in this country or their own religion. I say slap a penalty on them for contempt of court without being intimidated by accusations of discrimination. Religion is no excuse for not abiding by the law.