Sunday, January 22, 2006

Another Odd Job

As I have said before, we are sometimes asked to decide on something that is well out of the ordinary.

On one occasion, it was to decide someone's age. The someone in question was an illegal immigrant from a third-world country who had committed a criminal offence. He claimed to be 17, which makes him a youth in legal terms. The Youth Court only sits on two days a week in my courthouse, and this was not one of them. If we had been sure that he was 17, we would have remanded him over to the next youth court. The prosecution, however, challenged his age, and I could see their point. I am no expert, but he looked well over 20 to me - more like 24 if I had to guess.

So our bail decision was to send him to the youth court and ask them to determine his age for legal purposes. We had no firm evidence of his age - in fact there may even be none, as some rural areas in poor countries have no system of records. Quite a few such people give their date of birth as 1st January, 19XX, which is a convention for their being fairly sure about the year, but having no idea about the date. This chap was a mystery.

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