Justice denied by creative remedies

South Africa has a crime problem of note, and the ANC government together with the former National Party government is 100% guilty of it. It is not so much that the laws are wrong (they are), or that the police cannot cope (they can’t), but that the judiciary has been allowed to run riot, and be a law unto themselves. Judges have been allowed to abscond from the task of doing judgement, and mire themselves in the exchange of papers, legal briefs, and motions, and endless delays, all supposedly to promote the administration of justice, with the single practical effect that there is now no justice. The judiciary decided that effective punishments are not allowed. And all this time, the judges insist on titles of honour. Now wrong judgement proceeds, and evildoers do evil with the secure knowledge that if they do happen to fall into the hands of the rulers, that the rulers will do nothing but protect them from harm in the government hotel. The only way they will face justice is when they finally go to hell.

I think that a large part of the problem is that the courts have long allowed themselves to define creative remedies for crime.

The Bible lays down the following punishments that can be given by the law – and it’s not a long list. The thing that these all have in common is that they can all be executed in one day:

  • Restitution (Exodus 22:1 If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.) Steal my stuff? Got caught? Great: it’s a pleasure doing business with you.
  • Beating (And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. – Deuteronomy 25:2) (The judge is supposed to be there and observe the punishment!)
  • Death (The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you. – Deuteronomy 17:7) (The witnesses have to perform the execution.)
  • Banishment (These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither. – Numbers 35:15) All of the bad drivers in one town.

If there are only four outcomes from a case, then getting to the guts of the matter must be a great deal simpler. Not one of these remedies is a possible outcome of a criminal case in South Africa – not even restitution of goods! Instead, the judges are weighing up warnings, years in prison (adjusted for early release), and fines to the state. None of these is justice, and so, to compensate, they seem to put off the evil day: delay, delay and then delay.

There are a few other punishments that apply to unusual cases:

  • Servitude ( … he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. – Exodus 22:3) limited to seven years (And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. – Deuteronomy 15:12)
  • Forced payment of a bride price with optional forced marriage (And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. – Exodus 22:16)
  • Having to free a servant from servitude (for permanent damage) (And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake. – Exodus 21:27)
  • Equal damage (And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him. – Leviticus 24:19)
  • Having to pay for the full recovery of someone injured in a fight. (If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.)

The following cruel and unusual punishments are modern innovations:

  • Imprisonment as punishment – loss of all liberty, and forced association with
  • The payment of fines to the state. (With a small exception: there is the prescribed bringing of a sin offering, the most expensive of which is a ram for sins in regard to the holy things.)
  • Warnings and suspended sentences (you are guilty, yet we do nothing now, but if you do it again, we’ll get you then)
  • Divorce in marriages that have children: in God’s law divorce is permitted only in cases of fornication before marriage, and even that is a concession to hard hearts.
  • Restraining orders (don’t speak to this person, threaten that one, go here, go there, etc)
  • Specific performance – you are compelled to agree to this, or say this, or produce that.
  • Loss of licence – you are no longer free to do this or that – to drive, to print, to speak, to produce, to consume.

The following common modern punishing practices are not part of the law in the Bible:

  • The payment of crippling legal fees on every side.
  • The loss of useful work in never-ending and slow-moving legal process
  • Fees for executing the judgement of the court
  • The filing of briefs and motions
  • Long absent deliberation (the judge retires to his chambers and writes an essay about the case)
  • Punishments that the judge does not supervise (e.g. years of confinement, beating, delayed death)
  • Delay in execution of sentence
  • The creation of new judicial law and precedent.
  • Applying to the court for the enforcement of the judgement that the court previously made.
  • Contracts: that men are allowed to enter into agreements of immense complexity, and then mock the courts with their requests for “justice” when no actual crime was committed. These contracts think they are law, and the longer they are, the lighter they should be esteemed.
  • Dismissal of the case, without consequence to the complainant

By adopting a myriad of punishments and remedies that have an appearance of wisdom, modern jurisprudence has departed from the simple principles of God’s law, and mired itself in thick books of rules and exceptions that do not promote the one cause for which government exists: the punishment of evildoers, and the protection of the innocent.

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

Ecclesiastes 8:11

The solution to the criminal mess is to insist that the courts judge criminal cases swiftly, and carry out immediate and final judgements without any delay.

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