If you were a judge and you could get your kids out of a fix by using acquired power and influence would you take advantage of that position to massage a favourable outcome?
This is more of a moral question rather than a legal one, but if you believe justice to be blind – or at least superficially – then the answer should be a resounding negative.
Cyprus has suffered a jolt to its justice system with accusations that it is far from impartial with judges allegedly having a far too cosy relationship with lawyers with a sprinkling of nepotism thrown in.
Nobody would argue that the Cypriot justice system is perfect, but we would like to believe that everyone gets a fair shake and equal chance before the law – no matter what your status – based on the evidence.
But Cyprus being what it is, influence and privilege go a long way to open more doors that are usually shut for normal people, especially if your poor, female or foreign.
Certainly, nobody should be surprised that justice can be served via the backdoor rather than in open court. Cyprus is a society built on favour for a favour, it’s in our DNA and the gene pool is a narrow one.
Miscarriages of justice can and do happen in any democracy, but this could be down to bad police work, inexperienced lawyers or a misreading of the evidence – knowingly making an arbitrary decision that alters the course of justice is another thing altogether.
Couple this with the biggest financial crisis this country has witnessed with tens of thousands out of pocket receiving no more than rough justice for their troubles.
Cypriots don’t expect their justice system to work perfectly but they do mind when thousands suffered a haircut on their deposits due to ruthless casino bankers who also sold them dodgy bank bonds as if they were gold bullion.
The government’s lukewarm crusade to find those responsible – it didn’t have to look very far – for the 2013 economic meltdown only gives credence to allegations that a web of nepotism and cronyism between lawyers and judges prevented justice from being served.
Enter the Attorney General’s lawyer brother who had some uncomfortable things to says about our not so impartial justice system by claiming judges presided over cases involving the island’s largest bank in which they had a direct or family connection to.
Basically, the lawyer used social media to suggest that Cyprus was ruled by a legal mafia.
In a typically high-handed response, the Supreme Court rebuffed the allegations that a web of familial ties between judges and lawyers has resulted in favourable rulings as “groundless” and a “blatant attack” on the judicial system.
The court slammed veteran lawyer Nicos Clerides for giving a “skewed picture” that maligned the judicial system.
In their defence, judges said the court conscientiously avoided conflict of interest and blamed “blind, belligerent rhetoric” for eroding public trust (that’s assuming it was there in the first place).
Clerides alleged that most judges in cases involving Cyprus’ largest bank had either worked at or had relatives working at specific firms that represented clients in those cases.
The cold shower poured on the lawyer didn’t prevent his brother, the Attorney General, from giving his penny’s worth – especially as the highest court in the land has ruled against the state in its efforts to nail bankers for the financial crisis.
Costas Clerides stuck his oar in the bitter row by backing his brother’s accusation that family ties and professional links to law firms representing Bank of Cyprus have tainted the decision process.
Here referred to two such cases, where judges failed to recuse themselves even though their family members worked at a law firm representing senior Bank of Cyprus executives.
The top lawman said it was time to stop “sweeping things under the carpet”.
Not missing a trick, the Supreme Court said that in one of those cases, the Attorney General did not call for any of the judges involved to be removed over a conflict of interest. In other words, it’s his fault for being a rubbish prosecutor.
It would be foolish to assume that the system will self-correct itself to ensure justice is not only being dispensed without prejudice but is seen to be done so.
Not to worry because anti-corruption experts from the Council of Europe’s GRECO will arrive next month to teach us, natives, how to behave in a civil manner with a hatful of recommendation that will most probably be ignored.
What has angered many out-of-pocket bondholders is that their search for justice and due compensation has been thwarted at every turn, but the daughter of the Supreme Court president did manage an out-of-court settlement with Bank of Cyprus.
This may be a coincidence with the case settled on its merits with everything absolutely above board, although the same judge helped overturn a conviction for market manipulation of a former Bank of Cyprus CEO.
You cannot make this stuff up – although our learned friends would call it contempt of court…