We, 31.05.2023
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Editorial: the court just does its job

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Photo: Elmo Riig

Boys accused in attempted rape of a girl of 12 were acquitted, by court. Criticism towards the court overflowed, in newspaper websites and social networks. Gender equality commissioner weighed in, finding that court judgments are often gender-biased. Anger boiled over. Understandably, as a child has suffered.

Few noticed it was not the court that was at fault. The accusation filed lacked evidence for conviction. Had the accusation been different, had the evidence been sufficient, the decision could have been otherwise. Sounds cold and harsh, but this is what a court does. It administrates justice. Based on the charges made, and the evidence possessed. And – that’s what they did.

In reality, even more happened: realizing that the gang cannot be convicted for attempted rape, they weighed options to go by other sections such as deprivation of liberty or physical abuse. But even with such accusations, evidence proved insufficient.

Sure, it seems unjust: the deed was awful and probably resulted in very long-term trauma. Violence, especially the sexual kind, is awful even if only intended.

Thus, those who think a crime needs to be punished cannot be more right. Even so, the error leading to lack of punishment was not committed by the court. It occurred much earlier, probably while the evidence was being gathered. A court does not investigate, a court judges based on evidence. And that’s what they did.

Estonian courts aren’t too eager to judge people not guilty. Herewith, they acted on the principle of rule of law – all such circumstances as may be doubted shall be interpreted in favor of the accused. For: better that a guilty one walks free than to have an innocent one jailed. Towards all – child and adult, male and female, rich and poor, minister and worker – court and law are equal and emotionless. This is not a fault with our courts, this is their strength. Even when to some such decisions may seem cold and emotionless.

So, asking what went wrong, a look into the court decisions will have to suffice. Meanwhile, let’s have the understanding to criticize the real culprits, and leave alone those that did their duty.

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