Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Justice and "Justice"

Over the last 20 years I've spent a lot of times in courthouses.

The first few times I went to court because of things I had done. More recently I have been there in support of others. In between I spent time at court as a journalist and a news cameraman. I was even once assaulted at court, resulting in a fractured knee cap.

I have a pretty good understanding of the mechanics of court. I know when to bow. I know not to leave my sunglasses on my head, and to turn my mobile phone off. I once saw a lawyer throw his pager across the court room when he forgot to turn it off and some one paged him. The judge had already cautioned him once about leaving it on. His response seemed a little extreme, but the judge saw the funny side of it.

I have been asked to advocate for clients before the court and even mediated a few disputes at the request of the court.

I have come to see that justice, real justice, the kind of justice that leaves you feeling like a wrong has been properly put right, is often missing from the justice system.

A parent looses access to their children because their former spouse is prepared to lie and they are not.

A homeless man is sent to prison because he spent a few nights in an unoccupied house, trying to get out of the cold and the rain.

A child abuser is set free because the person he abused is unable to face him in court and because his family, out of misplaced loyalty, are prepared to lie for him.

A 14 year old boy, charged with a minor stealing offence, is sent to prison because his family refuses to cover his bail and he ends up getting gang raped while inside.

Yesterday I attended court again with a dear friend who is trying to do something I too often take for granted; have a relationship with his children.

He can't afford a lawyer and so represents himself. His former partner has a lawyer who is prepared to sprout his clients lies as if they are facts. To denigrate a man who has spent the last 10 years just trying to be the best dad he can be.

As I listen, everything in me wants to scream out "this is not justice!". When I hear the lies - blatant lies that fly in the face of things that I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears - I want to grab the lawyer and shake him and ask him "what are you doing? Why do you so want to damage this man? What has he ever done to you?"

As we leave the courtroom, I wait by the door for the lawyer to exit. There are so many things I want to say to him.

Maybe it's not as clear cut as it seems right at this moment, maybe he's just doing his job.

As he emerges I call across the room to him, "My friend ..." He looks up at me with a smile, "You make a mockery of the notion of justice!" His smile rapidly vanishes and the colour drains from his face. He turns quickly on his heal and walks away from me.

He's just a man after all. I find myself feeling a little sorry for him. I think I scared him. I wonder what lurks in his past. What pain he has suffered, what kind of relationship he had with his father. Whether he has ever experienced true justice. Where a wrong has been made right.

I wonder if true justice can only ever come about through omnipotence. Maybe this is why God reminds us that, at the end of the day, vengeance is his domain while loving our enemies is ours.

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