The New Dawn (Monrovia)

15 February 2013

Liberia: 280 Rape Cases Abandoned

The Judge of Criminal Court "E" exclusively dedicated to trying rape cases has disclosed that prosecutor's nolle prose quoi or abandoned 280 rape and sexual offense cases during the past seven terms of court.

Delivering a charge at the Temple of Justice during a separate opening of the rape court on Wednesday, Judge Sianeh Clinton Johnson said records before Court "E" reveal that since the court was established in 2009, a total of 34 cases have been tried out of which 18 guilty verdicts and 15 non-guilty verdicts were brought down, respectively.

"I am often puzzled about this; what evidence the prosecuting attorney had to get an indictment that will not be sufficient to prosecute the same person against whom the grand jury has found a true bill for the petty jury will not be able to rationalize, I wondered," said Judge Johnson.

The judge earlier said among other things that delays in such cases have the propensity to sink society into moral decadence and victims becoming bitter to eventually withdraw from the law.

She said sexual offense cases should be fast- tracked because of the dehumanizing nature of such offenses, adding that both the victim and the perpetrator are scared forever.

"The victim suffers emotional death, and the perpetrator is forever feared because of the possibility that he/she may repeat this crime on another person. So both the victim and the accused's future depend on the outcome of each case," Judge Johnson added.

She however wondered whether the public is taking the court or the laws for joke, saying "How can two hundred and eighty cases be nolle prose quoi and only thirty-four had sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution?"

Judge Johnson revealed that for the term of court, there are 23 cases docketed in the order of primary docket, six; secondary docket, 15; and special offenses, 2, respectively.

She however challenged prosecutors to ensure that they successfully try cases that brought before the court, and to ensure credibility of their evidence by knowing how it is gathered, among others. Judge Johnson vowed that the Court "E" will be very reluctant to plead of nolle prose quoi, apparently given the number of cases abandoned so far.

She warned defense lawyers to promptly communicate to the court any challenges that the prosecution poses to their effective representation (regarding matters under their supervision) for the Justice Ministry to remedy same.

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