Yesterday, police charges against Roland Fozoo were dismissed in the District Court of Grand Port. In February 2000, Roland Fozoo was arrested by police in Rose Belle, where he lives, when he was organising a meeting against the passing of a repressive law by the PT-PMXD government: the Public Security Act. This law would have virtually transform Mauritius into a police state had it been proclaimed. When Roland Fozoo was in the company of three other Lalit supporters, they were all searched by police. Roland Fozoo demanded to see one of the officer's hands before he searched him as he was wary of being framed with something illicit. The officer did show his hand but remarked on Roland Fozoo being too smart for his own good. The police, after having searched all four people and found nothing illegal, moved off, and picked at something on the ground. They then, out of the four people, picked out Roland Fozoo, Lalit member, and arrested him on the charge of possession of gandia.
The Court judgement states that Roland Fozoo, the accused, "maintained his statements version with the poise of those confident in their version" and that he "readily submitted himself to cross-examination without faltering and it is noted that he consistently maintained his version in denial of the charge. Indeed, his spontaneous and outright refusal to acknowledge the contents of the gandia in the envelope on the very same night of his arrest is in line with his defence statement given a few days after and in the teeth of his so-called on-the-spot admission".
Lalit and Roland Fozoo thank all those who supported him when he was arrested and falsely charged.
Before the District Court of Grand Port
Judgment - 11 February 2004
Police v.s Louis Roland Fozoo - C.No.1088/2000
Accused stands charged with possession of 0.7 g of gandia, as per information. He pleaded Not Guilty and was assisted by counsel.
PC Teeruthroy deposed that on Tuesday 1 February 2000 at about 9.00am, the police received information that there were 3 persons smoking gandia at Cite Balisson. He and other colleagues - all police constables - went there and positioned their van in such a way as to illuminate the locus. He saw Accused as well as two other persons, namely Antony Riviere and Vinaye Rookmin, sitting in a row, with the Accused furthest away from the van. The police identified themselves and with their permission searched them. Nothing was found on the two others and on instructions by PC Maulloo, who did not seek instructions from his superior officers, they were allowed to go. From Accused's short pocket, he removed a small black plastic sachet containing dried leaves to which the Accused allegedly confessed as being gandia.
It is on record that the Accused later declined to sign on the envelope in which the gandia was to be secured. He denied that there was one Franco Ono also there at the time and denied framing the Accused for being insolent to him by having asked him to show his hands before effecting the search.
The FSL report confirming that the leaves are gandia is on record.
The prosecution closed its case and Learned Counsel for the defence called the Accuse to depose under oath.
He swore as to the correctness of his defence statements wherein he denies the charge explaining that he and his 3 friends, the said Riviere, Rookmin and Ono were having a beer together when the police arrived and searched them but not before he had asked the officer to show his hands which were in any case empty. Nothing illicit was found. The officer admonished him for being smart and picked up something from the ground. There ensued a conversation in English amongst the other police officers and it was announced that the gandia belonged to him/Accused.
In Court he maintained his statements version with the poise of those confident in their version and this in stark contrast to PC Teeruthrouy's. No witnesses were called to depose in favour of the defence.
Learned Counsel for the defence submitted at length that it was not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Accused was in possession of the drugs and highlighted the instance in which Accused could have gotten rid of the drugs (if at all) and stressed on Accused's refusal to sign on the envelope in which the gandia was to be kept which act is at odds with the alleged spontaneous viva voce admission.
Indeed, after perusal of the evidence on record, this Court is of the considered opinion that this is a fit case for the benefit of doubt to apply. PC Teeruthroy's version sounded awkward, odd and contrived and the evidence about the composition of the police team as well as the circumstances of the search and the subsequent decision to release potential accomplices without further ado has instilled no uncertain doubt in the Court's mind that matters might not be as reflective of the truth as PC Teeruthroy would have this Court believe. Indeed, after balancing these features, this Court would be wary of believing him as a witness of truth and it is the considered opinion of this Court that it would be unsafe to rely on his testimony.
Furthermore, the Court cannot but help wondering why PC Malloo, despite his name being on the list of witnesses, was not called as a witness.
On the authority of Paruit (1968) MR 37 there is no rule of law that a witness' evidence needs corroboration save for those statutorily designated and those required as a matter of practice, but however, in a hotly contested case, the failure of the prosecution to call a witness who had indisputably witnessed the incident should raise an inference in the mind of the Magistrate that that witness might not have been prepared to support the prosecution's version.
The Accused readily submitted himself to cross-examination without faltering and it is noted that he consistently maintained his version in denial of the charge. Indeed, his spontaneous and outright refusal to acknowledge the contents of the gandia in the envelope on the very same night of his arrest is in line with his defence statement given a few days after and in the teeth of his so-called on-the-spot admission.
The Accused has nothing to prove and it is for the prosecution to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt and on the evidence on record and the remarks made about, this Court would be derelict in its duty were it to find that the Prosecution has discharged same to the required standard.
It is well established that the least shadow of doubt would entitle the Accused to be granted the benefit of doubt.
For all the reasons set forth above and as the prosecution has not proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt, this Court grants to the Accused the benefit of doubt and dismisses the charge against him.