'Phone rage' judge makes tough call on offenders
IT WAS almost inevitable that it would happen -- the phone bandit had struck again.
It was the day after Judge Prithviraj Fecknah's 'phone rage' due to interference on court number five's sound system and a mysterious suspected phone user fled the scene.
Now somebody's incoming call had made the speakers go haywire again. And this time the judge was prepared to take drastic action. He was beyond irritated, having frequently instructed those at the Michaela McAreavey murder trial not just to turn their phones on silent, but to switch them off.
Now the judge was threatening to throw offenders in the slammer -- telling the court the maximum sentence he could impose was "seven years". It was serious jail time.
When the interference started, a furious judge Fekna looked up and said: "Shall we wait for the person whose phone is ringing to answer the call? We are all at their beck and call now.
"Let's just wait", he said as the noise continued. Then he said: "I would ask the police officers to lock the door. No one is to leave the room."
Police officers spent the next 30 minutes checking if people had received incoming calls or text messages.
Again the phone bandit was elusive.
Judge Fecknah returned at 12.10pm and berated those in attendance, saying he had previously been "very lenient.
"I am therefore forced to take drastic measures", he said.
"From this afternoon any person found with a cellular phone switched on or off will be charged with contempt.
"The maximum sentence for contempt is seven years in prison and I will apply that sentence," he added.
"I am sorry I have to take these measures", he said but continued: "Some people don't seem to understand the seriousness of this case and that this is a courtroom and respect has to be given."
He read out the Mauritian contempt of court laws, saying that the offence was being committed by anyone who "wilfully insults a magistrate" or "wilfully interrupts proceedings".
"Some people have been wilfully flouting this provision" he said and continued to read from the act: "The maximum penalty is seven days in prison."
Given Judge Fecknah's level of fury on the matter, one suspects he would prefer to impose the seven years he had threatened in error earlier.