Criticism, also on judges, can lead to innovations

“Sometimes, criticism can lead to pioneering results. The justice system nowadays would have been very different if it hadn't had, because concepts like slavery, discrimination, death penalty, or euthanasia that were once considered as normal, were abandoned due to pure criticism”, said vice-chairman Chester Peterson in a speech he delivered on behalf of president of the Bar Association Eric de Vries, who was unable to attend the appointment of three new judges last week.

De Vries does not share the view ‘that some people do not appreciate criticism on the Public Prosecutor and the bench, because the prosecutors and judges would not be able to defend themselves publicly or that criticism affects the confidence in the judicial power’. The OM can defend itself by among others adjust its policy in such way – and make it public – that pertinent criticism is taken into account. “No criticism on the OM inside the courtroom as well as outside, lacks one of the essential ingredients for innovation within the OM. After all, fact is that to achieve a change for the better, nothing is more effective than public criticism”, says De Vries.

Judges are used to deal with criticism. “After all, from critical viewpoints, they every day choose (most of the time) the correct one and interpret it into a verdict.” If that verdict is not correct, they will have to deal with the critical attitude of a higher judge that proceeds to quashing that verdict. Judges must also comply with budgets within the organization and do well with the funds spent on that. Judges can also stop criticism by adjusting the policy in criminal-, civil-, or administrative lawsuits in a well-founded manner. “The verdicts of the Supreme Court or the European Court regularly show that there is policy that can be corrected when passing verdicts. Well-founded criticism on that can only contribute to improvement.”

Criticism is essential for innovation within the society. “The right on freedom of speech wasn’t gained for nothing and nobody is protected against that, not even the most important pillars of our constitution. The point is to make clear that certain viewpoints, certain policy principles are considered incorrect and need to be changed. And also make clear how it must be done”, is the opinion of De Vries. “If you don’t agree with the criticism, we assume that you are critical and explain why. There is no longer room for ivory turrets in this day and age.”

Thus, judges may expect criticism from the Bar and her members inside the courtroom as well as outside. “If you don’t agree with that, you must say so”, said the president of the Bar Association .

(Source: National Newspaper Antilliaans Dagblad / National Newspaper Amigoe)

1 October, 2008


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