Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Weird Notions of the Daily Nation

Today's Daily Nation editorial should give us all some pause for thought, but not for the reasons the Nation editors would like. For the newspaper actually seems to equate democracy with freedom from the constraints of law. It treats our statutes as something of an inconvenience, to be disregarded whenever expediency demands, in the rush to avail ourselves of the right to protest. The editorial states:
"It is often said that nobody has the right to hold processions without permission. That is usually just an excuse to block, for political reasons, the exercise of free expression. Every other day, all manner of groups hold processions without hindrance. The only time police interference would be justified is when such groups present threats to law and order."
This is what the relevant law (Public Order Act, Chapter 56, Section 5) has to say:
5.(1) No person shall hold a public meeting or a public procession except in accordance with the provisions of this section.

(2) Any person intending to convene a public meeting or a public procession shall notify the regulating officer of such intent at least three days but not more than fourteen days before the proposed date of the public meeting or procession.

. . . . . . . .

(8) The regulating officer or any police officer of or above the of inspector may stop or prevent the holding of-

(a) any public meeting or public procession held contrary to the provisions of sub-sections (2) or (6);
Clearly, the police do have every right to stop the proposed marches if the organisers fail to provide notice of the intended demonstrations. Furthermore, it is a nullity to argue, as the editorial does, that the police should have done nothing because the protesters were voicing "a very genuine public concern — a proposed send-off package by MPs". The Penal Code, Chapter 63, Section 9 has this to say concerning intentions and motives:
9.(1) Subject to the express provisions of this Code relating to negligent acts and omissions, a person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission which occurs independently of the exercise of his will, or for an event which occurs by accident.

(2) Unless the intention to cause a particular result is expressly declared to be an element of the offence constituted, in whole or part, by an act or omission, the result intended to be caused by an act or omission is immaterial.

(3) Unless otherwise expressly declared, the motive by which a person is induced to do or omit to do an act, or to form an intention, is immaterial so far as regards criminal responsibility.
So it matters not that the organisers sought to do good. That does not absolve them of their legal obligations.

Now, while it is perfectly clear that the police had every right to stop the demonstration, the arrest of the organisers is another matter entirely. The Police Act, Chapter 84, Section 16 says:
16.(1) It shall be the duty of the Force to regulate and control traffic and to keep order on and prevent obstructions in public places, and to prevent unnecessary obstruction on the occasions of assemblies, meetings and processions on public roads and streets, or in the neighbourhood of places of worship during the time of worship therein.

(2) Any person who disobeys any lawful order given by any police officer acting under subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence, and may be arrested without a warrant unless he gives his name and address and satisfies the police officer that he will duly answer any summons or other proceedings which may be taken against him.

It seems obvious that the 5 activists would have easily been able to fulfil the conditions set out in sub-section (2) above and therefore their arrest was totally unnecessary. In this, and in unleashing violence on a largely peaceful though illegal gathering, the police over-reacted. In that sense I do agree with the Nation's call for the police to apologise and "take action" against the concerned officers. I only wish that the newspaper was as vocal in calling for the punishment of the other lawbreakers in this sorry tale.

No comments: