November 21, 2012
The right to due process
The idea of due process is the legal requirement that the State must respect all the legal rights that are owed to a person. It can be best described as an idea that laws and legal proceedings must be fair. We have a right to due process in law. This right is also another right which is protected by the Constitution of Jamaica. The Constitution guarantees that the Government cannot take away a person's basic right to 'life, liberty or property, without due process of law'.
Due process is a fairly broad concept, however. It refers to procedural protections that are necessary to ensure that if you are charged and put before the court, you will get a fair and impartial trial. Equality before the law is extremely important when considering due process. You are entitled to certain rights, and they must be observed and protected at all times.
The following are some of the due-process safeguards which are important and essential to you if you are charged:
Equality before the law - all are to be treated equally before the law, irrespective of class, race or religious beliefs.
A fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal - a trial free from bias must be afforded to you.
Presumption of innocence - you are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
To be informed promptly and in plain language that you understand of the charge against you.
To have an attorney of your choice, and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. You can also opt to defend yourself.
To be tried without undue delay - lengthy delays may form valid grounds for appeal in the event that you are convicted.
To be present during your trial - your trial must not be held in your absence.
To challenge the prosecution's case - you can confront the witnesses against you and obtain the attendance of witnesses on your behalf.
The right to appeal or to review your conviction and sentence by a higher court.
To compensation for wrongful convictions.
Not to be prosecuted twice for the same crime.
Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. Therefore, it is important that the above-mentioned due-process safeguards are ALWAYS observed. If you are charged with an offence and put before a court, you are entitled to be treated fairly. In my opinion, due process is best defined in one word: fairness. When a person is treated unfairly by the government, including the courts, he is said to have been deprived of or denied due process.
Matters of Justice, where justice matters.
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