21 February 2013

Liberia: Brutality Meted Against Paynesville Court Messengers

It has come to the attention of this paper that court messengers at the Paynesville Magisterial Court are continuously flogged upon carrying out orders from the magistrate or the court in its confined areas. Recently, the court officers namely, Woizie Kennedy, Moses Binda and Emmanuel Davids were mercilessly beaten and mal-handled by residents of Jacob Town community for seeking permission through a Writ of Execution and Possession to evict a property in that vicinity.

During the event, the court officers lost several of their valuables from the angry mob and were unable to mete out violence in return due to their official mandate and scope of operation therefore back-up police personnel had to be called for their rescue.

As witnessed in open court, the court officers returned from the scene with torn uniform, teeth bites as well as wounds all over their body from the house owners as well as community members who had gone to intervene.

The police at Depot 9 reached on the scene when the damage had already been done and many of the perpetrators had fled but four arrests were made and the suspects are currently behind bars at the Monrovia Central Prison.

This could not have been the first and only violent attempt by residents to have court officers vacate the scene while meting out court orders and as in similar case, the attempt by court officers to have one Pastor Elijah Peters committed to prison which resulted into violence in the courtroom has now caused the suspension of Magistrate J. Kennedy Peabody for a period of two months.

According to the Supreme Court while handling down its judgment yesterday, Stipendiary Magistrate Peabody admitted being in error to have signed a commitment of a defendant whom he has assigned to Associate Magistrate Emmanuel D.S. Todd for prosecution but while he erred, it is also a confusion that Pastor Elijah Peters disrespected the court by not adhering to the order of the court at all times mentioned.

The court said it was the 'inadvertent' decision of Magistrate Peabody that led to the commotion even though the scuffle ensued from the pastor and his throng of congregational members who were in the court and refused to secure a bond or leave the court even after Magistrate Todd had evoked 13.5 in his favor.

The Supreme Court blamed Magistrate Peabody for breaching Judicial Canon number 8 which calls on all judges to be alert at all times.

The court acknowledged that the pastor also refused to receive the writ three different times served him by court officers, to sit on the bench, secure a bond and then to go court yet it ruled that the pastor should be warned. While the court reversed the JIC decision to suspend Magistrate Peabody for six months to two and unconsciously squashed the recommendation of dismissing the court officers involved.

The Supreme Court's decision takes effect as of the date of the delivery of its opinion but it is also with great anticipation that public legal awareness be conducted in the Paynesville communities. It is becoming a usual business as residents no longer have respect for the community courts even though when the table turns in their favor they run to the same court to seek justice.

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