Criminal Appeals 7802, 7803, 7804 and 7805 - Fair trial - Bias of Jugde - Trial within reasonable time
Date of Judmment: 26/2/2007
The appellant doctors were convicted of criminal negligence that led to the death of a young boy. In their appeals to the Supreme Court, the appellants raised the issue of prejudice and lack of impartiality by the trial judge. They also alleged unreasonable delay in filing and prosecuting the case.
The argument about bias focused on the fact that the trial judge had met outside his office, the father of the deceased who talked to him an gave him also a design related to the case and the judge did not disclose this fact immediately in open court. Also it focused on the fact that one of the key witnesses in the case had entered, a few times, the judge´s office and had conversation with him.
The Supreme Court in reversing the decision held that the test for bias is not subjective but objective. The notion of impartiality of the courts is enshrined and safeguarded by Article 30.2 of the Constitution. This embodies the maxim that "justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done".
It was stated that the conduct of the judge to receive a crucial witness in his office during the trial and to consider him, a priori as a witness of the truth, as well as not mentioning in court the encounter he had with the father of the child was reprehensible.
The Supreme Court noted that the conduct of the trial Judge was such that justice did not appear to be done. With his action, the judge gave the impression to all the parties in the trial and especially to the defendants and their lawyers that he did not honour the high level of objective impartiality, which is always expected from judges.
The Supreme Court having taken into account the long period that had elapsed from the time of the event, the costs as well as the distress that the appellants had suffered, ruled that it would not be just and fair to order a retrial of the case.
The appeals were allowed.