Justice like fine wine

Filed in Current Affairs, Hong Kong

I've been watching a lot of the amazing "CSI" American television series lately and something occurred to me while watching it. For the justice system to work, a certain assumption has to be made; that all police work can be trusted.

If a case against a criminal is built entirely on evidence collected by the police, then the courts have to assume that the police-provided testimonies and evidence, and everything about the evidence is true. If not, then no case would ever get prosecuted.

For example, a criminal scientist collects a strand of hair at a murder scene. The first assumption would be that the hair was actually collected at the scene and not swapped afterward (or planted earlier) by a corrupt officer. The second assumption would be that the hair was correctly handled, labelled and transported so that its authenticity and usefulness as a piece of evidence wouldn't be affected in any way. The third assumption would be that the scientist within the crime department who analyses the DNA of the hair is not corrupt, knows exactly what he's doing and does it accurately to identify the owner of the hair. The fourth assumption would be that the database used to compare the hair's DNA so as to identify the owner is accurate and up to date.

You see, once the results of the investigation of that hair get into the court, the source of the hair, the handling thereof and the DNA identification won't be questioned by the court. It can't be questioned or the case would never get prosecuted. The scientist and the department has to be absolutely unreproachable. That's why in the various television series regarding law, the departments are always extremely concerned when one of their members; be they policemen, scientists, attorneys, judges or whatever; gets impeached with corruption, mishandling of evidence or plain old negligence. When this happens, every case that has ever involved that person or the evidence they touched becomes questionable, and convicted criminals have a basis for retrials. Within the law system, those working within the system are truly assumed innocent (and capable) until proven guilty. It's the only way the system will work.

Unfortunately, police departments around the world are not pure. They become puppets for corrupt governments, politicians or rich people. All around the world, rich people frequently get away with criminal activities; including murder; and there's almost nothing that the common person can do. I know people who worked within the law system of Hong Kong and they hated going to work because they saw rich people orchestrate trial results even before going into court. It happens in Hong Kong. It happens all over the world.

I think it's probably worse in countries where most court cases are prosecuted behind closed doors so that the public only has access to the evidence and findings that the courts deem suitable for public consumption. It's even worse when those same courts don't allow the suspects to hire their own independent attorneys. From the beginning, the suspects have no chance of disproving the accusations against them. The courts have already decided the result without hearing all evidence from both sides. They have no interest in hearing the truth. They have no interest in justice. They only want a speedy trial and the occasional larger-than-life demonstration conviction that they can show to the citizens of their country to prove that they're doing a good job.

The justice system is like making wine or meringue. If even a little vinegar gets into the wine, or if even a smingen of egg yolk gets into the egg white, then the wine and the meringue will go bad.

One of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Crime (ICAC) department's responsibilities were to make sure that any corruption within Hong Kong's justice system be uprooted, so that the system always remained pure like fine wine. Before the 1997 handover, the ICAC did a pretty good job although there is at least one case that I can remember where the bad guys were not prosecuted by the ICAC because of their connections to important people in China. After 1997 though, the ICAC apparently lost the "Independent" part of their name. If you read the news regularly, it's easy to sense how things have changed there and how the ICAC is becoming more and more a puppet of the Hong Kong government. Recent controversial changes to the communication/phone-tapping laws; passed by Sir Donald Tsang without even asking the Legislative Committee; are only the most recent clues that the ICAC is no longer what it once was when first conceived back in the 1960's.

In case it hasn't occurred to you, the changes made to the phone-tapping laws combined with legal phrases such as "disturbing the social order" basically allows the government to spy on anyone they don't like; ie, "big brother" from the book "1984" by George Orwell.

Some people claim that justice is for all when the truth is that justice is only for the rich. For a while, some poorer people in Hong Kong had a good chance of getting justice when private companies were springing up to help people prosecute and sue others without requiring any legal fees up front. Once the suit had settled, the company would keep a percentage of the awards and everyone would be happy. Rich people didn't like this though and many of the expensive attorneys didn't like it either so the attorney association put out a letter forbidding all attorneys from aiding these companies. Basically, they wanted to make sure that only the rich had access to justice. Fortunately, some of those companies are still running, allowing some of the poorer people in Hong Kong to continue getting access to justice. Note that "poorer" doesn't necessarily mean sleeping in the streets or living on the poverty line. Attorneys and lawyers are extremely expensive, so much so that most middle class people cannot even consider hiring attorneys when they've been wronged.

The rich will always want their own way, and those in positions of power will often be owned or persuaded by the rich. As mere mortals, there's not much most of us can do. Thankfully though, there are still a few upright moral people within the justice system. Hopefully, they'll prevent the system from becoming completely biased to the rich and powerful, and prevent the wine from going completely sour.

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7 Responses to “Justice like fine wine”
  1. sapphire says:

    >> Some people claim that justice is for all when the truth is that justice is only for the rich.>>
    Is justice only for the rich?
    I don’t know because I’m neither rich nor famous. OJ and MJ probably knew the answer.

    >>For a while, some poorer people in Hong Kong had a good chance of getting justice when private companies were springing up to help people prosecute and sue others without requiring any legal fees up front. Once the suit had settled, the company would keep a percentage of the awards

  2. Joanne says:

    Just on the point of corrupt crime scene investigators, judges, DNA analysts....I think that they're meant to get paid quite abit, and I do think that this goes a long way in preventing corruption.

    However I don't think that the system will ever be completely "fair" and the rich will always win out - because of the born greed and selfishness in people (everybody's got it, it just depends on the degree).

    There will probably never be a fair justice system. Just like how despite every pageant winner saying she wants World Peace - it will most likely never happen. It'd be like Pleasantville.

  3. 河國榮 says:

    Joanne, I saw Pleasantville. good movie!

  4. Arthur Heng says:

    Lets hope for a sweet wine!

  5. Wesker says:

    I am a bit suspicious about the legal system in hong kong, especially after i read those news about the guy from mainland who killed an officer by molokov's cocktail during a demostration in the immigration dept., and those cases that those young singers are getting away from drug possessions and car accidents.
    and also those rich people in court, i don't think they are really scared in front of justice. such as the MJ case, it was a hot topic down here in downunder too. "jacko-wacko", i wonder who made this funny name on him~ ^_^"
    anyway, i enjoy CSI: miami here, and 24 too~

  6. Wing Liu says:

    CSI series are AMAZING pieces of American TV series at its BEST.

    I guess NO HUMAN or POLICEMAN are 100% clean, it goes to all professions.

    Plus, human or even shall I imagine ROBOTS can perform and make judgement at 100% of solving CRIME (in CSI or real life situations)?

  7. Wing Liu says:

    BTW, did you watch WILL SMITH's I, ROBOT.

    VERY UNREAL but MOST PROBABLE kind of corruptions and crime can appear through human or MACHINE!?