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Magistrates blast police


. . . judicial officers accuse cops of wantonly defying court orders

Tefo Tefo

IN an unprecedented censure with rule of law implications, magistrates have accused the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) of wantonly defying court orders resulting in the judicial officers losing confidence in the law enforcement agency.

Magistrates who spoke to the Sunday Express this past week said their sentiments were shared by many of their colleagues “who have also grappled with this problem for a long time”.

However, LMPS spokesperson Superintendent Clifford Molefe, has maintained the security agency obeyed court orders since their core mandate was to enforce the law in the country.

Legal experts told this publication that disregard for court orders did not bode well with the rule of law and the sustenance of a functional democracy. They said it only served to foster a culture of impunity among members of the police, further warning that, if unchecked, it could result in members of the public losing confidence in the country’s judicial and law enforcement systems altogether.

The magistrates said while by-and-large police complied with court orders, there were a number of instances in which they opted not to for one reason or another.

Magistrate ‘Mamorojele Qoo said she decided not to proceed with a criminal case before her on Friday after realising the police had not complied with her order to release a vehicle to a Chinese national facing a criminal charge.

Ms Qoo was referring to a case in which Daowen Chen (53) is facing a charge of contravening provisions of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Regulations of 1997.

Mr Chen operates as a wholesaler selling LPG gas, and he is accused of filling cylinders belonging to a rival company, Easy Gas, in violation of gas retail regulations.

He first appeared before the Magistrate’s Court on 4 November 2016 and was released on bail.

Ms Qoo said she made an order that the vehicle on which the gas cylinders were loaded be released to its lawful owner whom she did not mention by name.

However, she said the police did not obey the order until she decided against proceeding with the case on Friday.

“I acted mero motu (voluntarily) that the decision of the police to ignore my order amounted to a contempt of court,” Ms Qoo said.

“I decided not to proceed with the case because I felt uncomfortable when I realised that the police had simply ignored my order.

“If the police cannot obey court orders, how then do they expect ordinary citizens to comply with court orders?

“I have now lost confidence in them because I was expecting them to uphold the law since they are peace officers.”

Ms Qoo said she was left with no option but to remand the case to 6 August 2017.

“I remanded the case to the 6th of August 2017 to see if the police would ultimately comply with the order,” she said.

Magistrate Litšitso Selialia also told this publication she had lost confidence in the police as far as dutifully enforcing court orders was concerned.

Ms Selialia said she had convicted two police officers for contempt of court after they did not release a vehicle as ordered by the court.

This was in reference to a case in which one Makara Maine is charged with car-theft after being found in possession of a stolen 4×4 double cab vehicle in Ha-Paki, Mazenod early signs of genital warts | ohnerezeptfreikaufwomen should look for warts in or around their vulva and groin. men should examine their penis, … with regards to the early signs of genital warts, … last November.

Ms Selialia said she made on order that the vehicle be released to Mr Maine for safe keeping after his application was argued by both his lawyer and the lawyer representing the prosecution.

“The application for the release of the vehicle was argued on the 28th of February 2017 and the order was made on the 7th of March 2017 as a temporary release of a vehicle to the accused for safe keeping purposes.

“The police did not obey the order, and as a result, the lawyer representing the accused filed an application for contempt of court.

“A consent order was made on the 17th of March 2017 that the vehicle should be released to the accused as a temporary relief pending finalisation of the application.”

She said the police still did not release the vehicle.

“There was judgment on the 15th of May that indeed the two police officers – Inspector Phole Masila and one Motsoetla – were contemptuous and should be jailed for 30 days.

“They just decided to walk away from the court premises, when a warrant committing them to prison was still being signed.”

Ms Selialia added: “I only learnt later that the lawyer representing the crown rushed to the High Court seeking a review of my order and, indeed, she was entitled to do so.

“But my concern is that when she was still applying for the review, which indeed which was entitled to do, my order should have been complied with. As a result, I have lost confidence in the police.”

She said the two officers were the investigating officers of the car theft case before her, adding that there was a likelihood that they would testify before her.

“Yet, they have already ignored my order. Police should lead by example,” Ms Selialia asserted.

Supt Molefe begged to differ with the magistrates in an interview with this paper, saying it was not true that LMPS members defied court orders.

He said defying court orders would be tantamount to disregarding the LMPS’s core mandate of being a law enforcement agency.

“Whenever the courts of law issue orders, our role is to ensure that such orders are executed,” Supt Molefe said.

“If there are issues of concern that need to be addressed, the proper procedure is to raise such issues with the relevant police authorities so as to find a solution.

“I think the judicial officers know what they should do if they have an issue that needs to be addressed.

“Normally, if there is legal dispute, we resolve it on legal terms.”

For his part, Law Society of Lesotho President, Attorney Tumisang Mosotho, said while they had not been notified of the issue, such conduct would be reprehensible if true.

He said the society would investigate the matter.

“This particular issue had not come to our attention,” Atty Mosotho said.

“But it would be unfortunate if the police were indeed engaging in contemptuous acts like that. It is totally unacceptable.”

He added: “We will definitely meet with the chief magistrate to investigate this properly and we will take up the matter accordingly.

“We may even take up the matter with the police authorities.”

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