Law should be the only benchmark

Editorial

A POLICE commander says police must not accept or tolerate compensation payments to avoid prosecution for serious criminal charges.
Assistant Commander of Police (ACP) border command Peter Philip last week issued a directive to all police station commanders to not allow any form compensation in their line of duty.
For serious crimes such as murder and rape, the perpetrators must face the law regardless of whether they have shown remorse and have cooperated with police.
Paying compensation should never be seen as a pardoning of the offence by the victim or his or her family because justice has been undermined.
At the same time, taking revenge after is the opposite end of the spectrum but just as wrong.
In Papua New Guinea, a country that has its majority of people living in the rural setting, this practice usually holds sway simply because the law is not present throughout the villages and districts.
People in the rural areas are much less inclined to seek out the police if they can first solve the trouble peacefully and amicably among themselves.
But where does that leave the law and its precepts?
The most common way of solving problems is to give the aggrieved party a payment in the form of valuable goods with the intent of easing tension and to make amends for a wrong committed on another.
The more serious the offence, the bigger the payment.
This practice may have sufficed in a traditional society but it cannot in modern PNG.
ACP Philip wants all perpetrators to go to court so that the law can decide on the appropriate penalties and to also act as a deterrent.
In many regards, compensation demands are seen as an easy out for both parties who do not wish to go through the drawn out process of the courts.
There are also selfish reasons for wanting compensation by relatives of the deceased or injured party.
It is not uncommon for relatives to want to benefit from a loss in any way they can.
The danger here is that a murderer could conceivably go unpunished if society deems compensation an acceptable form of justice.
All a criminal would need is sufficient funds to buy his or her way out.
The prospect of such a practice taking root and becoming the norm is surreal to say the least, and would directly lead to the breakdown of law and order and encourage anarchy in the masses of the poor who would not be able to obtain this brand of justice.
Papua New Guineans must decide whether they want to live in a society where law and justice takes precedence over cultural beliefs and practices or one where compensation demands can lead to justice taking a back seat.
This mentality is a threat to law-abiding citizens everywhere and those who believes in the country’s laws and foundations of nationhood.
The onus is on the police and law enforcement agencies not to accept compensation as a means to an end and see that justice is served whenever and wherever possible.
Lawyers – defence and prosecution – have a responsibility to ensure that justice prevails in all matters they are called to and not allow the law to be weakened and diluted.
For progress to be made as a nation, and as a people, the law must be the only bench mark by which we measure ourselves and by which order and peace is maintained.

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