Justice or Compassion?

The word justice renders much for us to ponder. More often, we’re so blindly driven by the fact that justice trumps over evil and all, that we slowly find ourselves succumbing to unseen holes of ambiguity. The grey areas and blurred boundaries of law. Why and how should we/I deal with it?

This morning I was in court to do my duty counsel requirement. (It is a compulsory 12-times counseling session set by the local Law society in which chambees/trainee lawyers would have to fulfill before they can be called to the local bar i.e. become an official lawyer/advocate/solicitor/attorney.) Such a day would normally comprise the mundane process of going through interviews and advice with accused persons who needed legal advice/representation in court with the last stage of the volunteer lawyers mitigating for lenient sentences on their behalf.

However, today was slightly different than usual. Instead of the normal sentencing and court mentioning procedures, today we had something more. This lady was charged for possession of 1.51grams drugs (considered a relatively high amount for the offence she’d committed) to which she pleaded guilty thereon. She pleaded for a more lenient sentence, citing reasons of unemployment, single motherhood…etc. But when she was asked why she was caught with 23 packets of the drugs, she appeared hesitant and did not answer the judge’s question. And thereon, she was slapped with a sentence of 12 months imprisonment. End of story – or I thought.

Towards the end of the session that day, this lady suddenly burst into tears – causing a slight commotion in the court. The presiding judge had just left and the police officers scrambled to appease this obviously devastated lady. Her son, who was only about 8 years old started sobbing too, making it even worst for her to hold her calm. In this situation, any reasonable person would feel bad for her and sympathise with her predicament. She seemed really remorseful and sort of tugged the hearts of many in the court. But again, she pleaded guilty to an offence affording a maximum sentence of 7 years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of RM100,000.00 (USD 30,000 equivalent)! What was she expecting? 6 months? 12 months already bordered on over-lenient to me.

Anyway, that was what I felt at that moment in time. Contrary to my more indifferent and uncompassionate front towards the situation, the other chambees seemed a lot more sympathetic. One of them even teared up seeing the boy cry over his mother’s plight. The other urged the court clerk to check with the judge to see whether the lady can be afforded a re-mention of her case. What did I do? I just stood there and did nothing. Just like the police officers who also didn’t seem to commiserate the lady’s plight, I stood there and look at her without an ounce of compassion. (Or at least I thought I was a bit too stern and unstirred).

===

Should I have pitied her? Or should I have at least felt more compassionate towards her plight? I know feelings are subjective, and it’s not like I was forced to react that way. But now that I think of it, I am unsure. Should I have given her a chance or a benefit of doubt? Maybe she committed the offence because she was desperate for money, to raise her kid. Maybe she was framed. All sorts of reasons came into my mind. But again, do those reasons make her wrong at least more justifiable (in her perspective)? If she had a reason, why did she refuse to answer the judge’s question? Why didn’t she say anything about why she was found with the drugs? hmmmm…

Was I too uncompassionate? Or was I just too hung up on the fact that she deserved the punishment because she was a second offender and that she had pleaded guilty? I don’t know. It’s not like I’m really enthusiatic about the profession right now. Why do I suddenly feel that I didn’t deserve to be there because I wasn’t really intending to be helpful to those who needed my help? Maybe the best way is to just think of the countless lives that can be/would have been saved by the punishment of this lady. She would have sold the drugs to others, who would probably have succumbed to the immense aftermath of either consuming or further distributing them to ppl. The list goes on. It really, does nothing to lessen the rates of ppl getting hung on drugs, but at least the law did the best it could, or rather, the law did what it should have done.

I once encountered a very prominent criminal lawyer, who professed to have won most of his cases in which 98% of the consisted of gone cases. He was able to balance his dedication towards winning all his cases (regardless of whether the persons were guilty or not) and his religion (he also professed himself to be a devoted preacher of Christianity)/ conscience without any hesitation – relying on the sheer reason that God was there to forgive everyone – even murderers – and himself who helped them walk out of the court free. I’m surprised he could even say that. But again, it’s probably the best method to make your life easier. By resting the justification of what and how you do things on other things. It does no harm physically – as you’re merely going about it in your head. So why not?

So a lesson learned today, justice or compassion – it all depends on your stand. And most probably – on how you justify your actions. For me, yeah ~ I think I lacked the compassion. But I’m free to say that her punishment was well-deserved (even that’s an understatement) – because she was given a chance to repent – and she probably saved the lives of many who could have suffered because of her actions. Only if she knew.

So stay off drugs ppl. You ruin your own lives, you ruin others as well.

That’s all for today. ADIOS~

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