a Law and the administration of justice
The introduction was, You see a policeman catch someone who is running away with an article taken from a shop. [Six questions follow, and students were asked to tick or answer YES or NO to each. The last two questions are open ended.]
The aim of this group of questions was to see whether students understood that extra-judicial action by police is unlawful; that a person accused of theft has a right to a trial; that an accused person has a right to defense; that trials are held in public; that a judge or jury should not decide until they have heard the case.
The key findings here were:
i That the samples were able to distinguish between might happen in practice, and what ought to happen - that is to say they had a good grasp of the human rights principles which should apply even while they recognised that there could be unlawful action by the police or the public. Hence 40.5% of the Botswana sample and 72.1% of the Indian sample expected that a policemen would beat the person and put him or her in prison. However 91.6% of the Northern Ireland sample did not expect this and, while 41.1% of the younger Zimbabwe group expected a beating to happen, 88% of the 16 year olds did not.
When pressed to ask what would happen if the incident occurred in their neighbourhood 50% of the Indian sample expected unlawful action by the police. In Botswana only 30% replied, of which half said that the crowd would beat up the thief. In Northern Ireland 17.3% thought the due process of law would be followed, 16.4% thought the offender would be given a second chance, but 11.7% thought that violence would be used, or guilt would be assumed, or the judge would be over-influenced by the police evidence.
But, answering the open-ended question on what should happen, 70.1% of the Botswana respondents said that the police should act according to the law and follow the set procedure. In India, 40.7% talked of compassion, leniency, and the social causes of crime while not ignoring the judicial process; 33.7% stressed trial and punishment according to the law, but also mentioned humane treatment; only 17.9% supported the idea of police beating up the person.
Only amongst the older group in India (Class XI students) was there a majority which expected a bribe to be taken (53.3%). In Botswana 30% expected a bribe to be taken and in Zimbabwe the 16 year olds were slightly more pessimistic than their juniors - 25.3% expected a bribe to be taken. In Northern Ireland only 6.1% expected a bribe to be taken, while 75.7% did not.
ii That the samples understood that a person accused of theft was entitled to a court trial. The responses here ranged from the lowest expectation in India (where 67% expected this to happen, while 31.4% did not) up to Zimbabwe, (where 88.8% expected this to happen). In Northern Ireland the expectation of “due process” was slightly higher among female and younger students, and there was a significant difference between the lower expectations (71.8%) in a “Protestant” all-boys urban secondary school, as compared with the much higher expectations (93.2%) in a “Catholic”, coeducational, rural secondary school.
iii That the samples had a good grasp of the concept of innocence until guilt is proved, and that an accused person is entitled to a defence. The lowest margin answering YES to the question about a lack of prejudgment by judge or jury was in India (70% YES to 28.1% NO), but it was still overwhelming. The YES response came from 71.3% in Botswana, 84.6% in Northern Ireland and 89.2% in Zimbabwe. In Northern Ireland there was a difference along the religious divide, with the “Protestant” group more likely to anticipate that a case might be prejudged than the “Catholic” students.
Similar majorities thought that the accused would have a lawyer or friend to help defend them, although there were differences by age. In India 8% more of the older group expected the person would have a lawyer, whereas in the Zimbabwe sample 70.5% of the 14 year olds but only 60.9% of the 16 year olds expected this. In Northern Ireland there was again a distinction on the religious line, with the lowest expectation (71.8%) being in the “Protestant”, all-boys, urban secondary school and highest in the “Catholic”, all-girls, urban secondary school (94.7%).
iv The least confident response concerned justice being seen to be done, and public access to the courts.
In Botswana, the concept of public access was held by a relatively small majority - 57.5% to 40.5%. In India, 69.2% expected the public would be able to watch, with a greater expectation among the older group. In Northern Ireland a majority - 56.5% to 43% - did not expect the public to be able to watch the trial. In Zimbabwe 69.1% of the 14 year olds and the same percentage of 16 year olds expected the public to attend.
The explanation for the Northern Ireland response may have been threefold: that the students knew that the Juvenile courts, with which they might have most contact, are not open to the public; a belief that all courts in Northern Ireland are not open to the public due to the prevailing security situation (although this is not true); or a view that members of the public would not be motivated to attend a mere shoplifting case.
In conclusion: It could be said that most secondary school students understood the concepts illustrated, but significant minorities did not. The public justice system in any country, to be democratically effective, needs the consent and understanding of virtually the whole population. This section of the survey reveals significant between-country differences, and that there was not always a progression between the younger and older age-groups. It was noteworthy that in Botswana and India, where expectations of police and public behaviour were pessimistic, students retained an accurate, rights-based view of what ought to happen.
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]