Newly Appointed Chief Justice Msosa Addresses Magistrates in First Public Speech

I had the honour and privilege to be selected by the Malawi Judiciary to externally facilitate and present on ‘Alternative Sentencing’ at the DFiD sponsored workshop entitled ‘Human Rights and Criminal Justice’. I presented on the factors to consider and the sentencing options available to magistrates when imposing a sentence on a person found guilty in a criminal case. I addressed custodial and non-custodial options which include, naming just a few, fine, forfeiture, compensation, community service and reparation.  The presentation was followed by a lively plenary session and was an excellent opportunity for magistrates from around Malawi to debate the options in the societal context in which they must be imposed.

The workshop was also a special occasion for another important reason as it was officially opened by the newly appointed Chief Justice of Malawi Anatastia Msosa, SC. The opening speech was the first official public speech delivered by Chief Justice Msosa, SC and was a historic moment for those of us who were fortunate enough to be present there. The opening speech, set out below, inspired all who were present to engage in the theme of the workshop and to contribute fully to the learning experience.

 

 OPENING SPEECH OF THE HONOURABLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF MALAWI

His Excellency the British High Commissioner Mr Michael Nevin, Your Lordship Justice A Nyirenda, SC Chairman of the Malawi Judiciary Development Program, Your Worships, Esteemed Resource Persons, Participants and Members of the Press.

It is an honour for me to stand before you to say a few words of encouragement and appreciation to get you started with the important business that has brought you here.

The theme of the workshop is “Human Rights and Criminal Justice”. From the programme, the subjects that you will discuss include human rights, camp courts and alternative sentencing. Already this promises to be a very relevant workshop. What you will discuss in the two days that you are here will no doubt greatly advance and promote delivery of justice to all manner of people in our country.

Human rights are at the centre of our Constitutional mandate.  We are challenged by the Constitution to dispense justice that upholds international human rights standards in all cases and in particular in criminal cases where most of the accused persons and the victims are often desperate and apprehensive. A human rights approach to any litigation assures that our society that the justice they will get from our courts is measured and balanced. Justice that will take into account all their rights and place them in context.

Camp courts have recently proven to be a particularly effective practical arrangement in dealing with multitude of criminal cases. Through camp courts, our justice system follows our people where they are and when they need it most.

Camp courts have alleviated pressure on court space, reduced the cost of litigation associated with ferrying persons to and from prisons and other remand places to court. Camp courts have also eased pressure on prison congestion.  Camp courts have demonstrated to be a particularly useful mode of delivering criminal justice expeditiously and effectively.

Another sure way of alleviating congestion in prisons is to revisit our sentencing patterns.  In appropriate cases custodial sentences should be avoided. The question then is, what alternative sentencing is available to a judicial officer. I am happy to learn that you will be discussing alternative sentencing while you are here. A sentence must fit the crime, must fit the offender and should be relevant to the society in which the crime is committed.

I should not take most of your time.  Two days is too short a time to discuss all the subjects that are in the programme.

Before I sit down however, allow me to convey my appreciation to the Government of the United Kingdom through the Department for International Development (DFiD) for the support that has, over the years and now, been rendered to the Malawi Judiciary. The DFiD is currently supporting the Malawi Judiciary in various programmes including the training of 59 Lay Magistrates at the Staff Development Institute – Mpemba in Blantyre. I am reliably informed by Honourable Justice Nyirenda SC, as Chairman of the Malawi Judiciary Development Programme, that there are, as I speak, several other programmes running, with financial support from DFiD. I will not go into the details of those other programmes.

This workshop has been organised with financial support from DFiD. Alongside the workshop there is financial support to enable us acquire 120 copies of the current Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code and the current Wills and Inheritance Act. These are materials that the Judiciary most needs. You will be aware that these Acts have recently been reviewed and most of our magistrates do not have them.

Finally, let me confirm that through these kinds of trainings and the material support, our Judiciary should be able to deliver justice to the most vulnerable groups of our society. This will certainly advance our society’s confidence in the Judiciary and inspire Democratic Governance and ultimately support the Malawi Government, Growth and Development Strategy.

Let me urge all the participants to make the best use of the eminent facilitators that are lined up for the programme.  I wish you a fruitful workshop in the two days that you are here.

At this point allow me to declare the workshop open and that you all for your kind attention.

Honourable the Chief Justice of Malawi, Anatasia Msosa SC

 By Eithne Lynch, Programme Lawyer Malawi