The right of an accused to fair trial : A case study of Chibuye and others V the people

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Tembo, Precious
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The Right of an accused to a fair trial and its antecedent rights is one of the fundamental rights of every man. When one is charged with a criminal offence, it is incumbent on the trial court to ensure that he receives a fair trial and the entitlements there under. Though the right to a fair trial is absolute, the other rights that have been guaranteed to the accused such as the right to be present during trial, to be represented by a lawyer of one's choice and to put up his defence through a lawyer may be waived. In this regard this dissertation undertook to consider how the courts in Zambia have interpreted the right to a fair trial and the judicial attitude in exercising its discretion in implying waivers. The main focus of the research sought to determine whether the accuseds' in the case of Chibuye and other v The People herein the case study, received a fair trial based on the court's determination of their implied waiver of the right to be present. Further, the research also undertook to consider how the non liberal and non lenient attitude of the judge in the case study as well as the conduct of the accuseds' affected the realisation of a fair trial. Upon conducting desk research and interviews with prominent lawyers, academicians and Judges, it was observed that there are inconsistencies and misconceptions on how the courts in Zambia have interpreted the right to a fair trial. The author also found that the courts as exhibited in the case study unlike in other jurisdictions were less liberal and rather more inclined to implying waivers as a result of the uncooperative conduct of the accused. On considering the whole trial, the author found that the accuseds' in the present case were actually denied a fair trial due to the judge's lack of impartiality which was discernible from the court's attitude in deciding to proceed with trial in the absence of the accuseds', without making any efforts to compel them to attend trial. This was important in determining whether they had opted to waive their presence on trial and if the same was valid. The author therefore recommends that the court in Zambia must be consistent in their interpretation of the right to a fair trial. Further, the court in deciding to invoke their discretionary powers to proceed in the absence of the accused need to be liberal so that justice is seen to be done and not just done. In addition, it was recommended by interviewees that there is need for civic education on the importance of the rights guaranteed under the right to a fair trial as some of the accuseds may behave in a manner detrimental to the assertion of their rights without knowing what they stand to lose.
Fair Trial - Zambia