Sunday, October 24, 2004

Judgment Day

Namibia is a country with relatively few people and with large distances between towns. Except for the most severe cases, in this part of Africa justice is doled out by the circuit court.

This means that the court personnel often have to travel several hundred miles between appointments. Like everyone else, the judge and the prosecutor would increase their gasoline consumption to shorten the distance.

In a small town where they would meet once a month, the local cop went on leave and a keen young policeman stood in for him. With not much else to do, he set up a speed trap outside of the town - on the same day the circuit court was supposed to meet at the local police station. As a result, both the judge and prosecutor were caught exceeding the speed limit.

Though the judge pointed out that he was the Magistrate of this District, the youngster showed no respect and played it by the book. Speeding was speeding, and you had to pay your fine irrespective of status or rank. Otherwise you had to appear in court.

So when they set up court that day, they each discovered that the other had been booked. Then one of them had a bright idea. Since they had to appear in the same court one month hence, they could easily remedy the situation out here at this remote outpost, way out of the public eye.

Come the day, the judge appointed a police sergeant as temporary prosecutor for the case against the prosecutor. The latter was duly called to stand in the dock, the charges were put to him, and he pleaded guilty.

"Is there anything you wish to say in mitigation of the sentence?" the judge enquired, and the prosecutor proceeded to explain how he was too poor to pay the fine, that the road was completely devoid of traffic that day, how important it had been for him to get to the court on time in order that justice might be done in the district, and so on. He spoke for quite some time.

The judge then considered the prosecutor's statement, and decided that the fine was unreasonable under the circumstances. The prosecutor was cautioned and released. Now it was the judge’s turn, and the court went into a short recess for the swearing in of the acting magistrate.

The acting magistrate, of course, was none other than the prosecutor. He took his oath, put on his gown, and waited to be called into court. When he took the bench, the sergeant acting as prosecutor called the judge’s case, and the judge took to the dock as the accused. Like the prosecutor, the judge pleaded guilty, and he used a similar argument explaining the mitigating circumstances. Then the acting magistrate pronounced his verdict:

"This court takes a very dim view of speeding," the prosecutor began. "It's a well-known fact that speed kills. In spite of this, it is also known that in this district certain people completely disregard the speed limits imposed for the safety of other road users.”

“Lately there has been an alarming increase in the number of speeding cases. Why, on this very day there are TWO speeding cases on the roll of this court. It would be a complete dereliction of this court's duty if I were to treat speeders too leniently.”

With that, and with a huge grin on his face, he treacherously imposed a stiff fine. It took the judge a long time before he was able to see the humor in the situation.

Submitted by Slow Eddy

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