Opinion: Debatable

POSTED: 09/13/12 1:01 PM

The phenomenon of the independent judge took center stage yesterday when the Court in First Instance took a decision that seems to be at odds with a ruling in a civil case. The case at hand is about a bellboy accused of stealing from two rooms at the Westin Hotel. He had an electronic master key and that key was used to open the doors of the burglarized rooms.

That looked like an open and shut case, but it was not: both the prosecution and the judge concluded that somebody else could have had a second key. That offered a sliver of doubt about the defendant’s guilt and based on that argument he was acquitted.

In a civil case, the same bell boy had already been dismissed per August 1 from the company. The civil court ruled that there is no doubt that the master key the bellboy had been given was used to open the rooms and that it was registered under a number linked to his name. That the bellboy claimed he had not left the hotel lobby on the evening of the burglaries did not impress the civil judge: he could have given the key to an accomplice.

The attorney for the Westin emphasized after the criminal court case that it is ludicrous to assume that there could have been a second electronic key with the same code: the hotel’s key generation system does not allow this, he said.

That different judges arrive at different conclusions is nothing new: it happens all the time, but in this case the result seems to be at least debatable.

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