Right Steps & Poui Trees


Police Have Sent File on Walker’s Place of Safety Fire to the DPP

When news came of the fire that destroyed the Walker’s Place of Safety on January 16, 2018, resulting in the death of two girls, there was an outpouring of grief and concern from officials and members of the public. Offers of help were extended, commitments were made regarding care for the surviving children and donations were given for immediate needs and towards the rebuilding of the facility.

 

At the time, I could not help thinking of the fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Facility on the night of May 22, 2009, which caused the death of seven girls and injury and trauma to numerous others. The subsequent Commission of Enquiry revealed specific information about the circumstances – horrifying and preventable – that led to the death of those children.

Assuming (hoping?) that lessons had been learned from that tragic event and loss of life, I expected that there would be the kind of thorough and detailed investigation and reporting that would indicate the specific circumstances that led to the death of the two children at Walker’s Place of Safety. I expected that there would be a full public accounting, so that we would know why these children’s lives had been lost, although the lives of so many others had been saved.

I did not hear in the public statements by officials the kind of details that would be needed and perhaps I didn’t expect it. I did, however, expect that in written format somewhere in the government agencies that level of investigation, reporting and accounting would exist. Reference was made in the media to a report by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA, formerly the CDA – Child Development Agency) and the fire report by the Jamaica Fire Brigade. I made Access to Information (ATI) requests for these documents, in the hopes that they would provide more of the type of information I was expecting to see. They didn’t.

(I wrote two blog posts about these reports – one on May 17, 2018 –

Walker’s Place of Safety Fire Brigade Report via Access to Information Request

and the other on September 29, 2018 –

Fire at Walker’s Place of Safety: More Information Needed

In the second post, I pointed out how little information is given about the circumstances leading to the death of the two children and the need for much more.)

The first anniversary of the fire came and went and on January 24, 2019, I made ATI requests to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) and to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) via the Ministry of National Security (MNS). There is a reason for having gone that route with my request to the JCF, but that’s for another time. The requests I made were as follows:

1. All documents giving an account of the specific circumstances surrounding the death of the two girls at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of the fire on January 16, 2018.
2. All documents regarding any investigation or inquiry into the death of the two girls at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of the fire on January 16, 2018, including any instructions for such investigation or inquiry to be carried out.
3. All documents related to any aspect of the death of the two girls at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of January 16, 2018.
4. All documents related to any aspect of the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety on the night of January 16, 2018.
MNS acknowledged receipt of my requests that same day, but then I heard nothing further. I emailed again on February 27, 2019, pointing this out and the following day received this response from MNS:

“This is to inform that your request below was directed to the J.C.F. However, in initial communication with them they had maintained that the matter was being investigated and would in this instance could not be disclosed, this was communicated verbally. I did not want to pass on this information until documented information/confirmation was forwarded about same.

Notwithstanding the J.C.F has formally confirmed that an investigation was conducted on the matter and the file was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for ruling which is being awaited.

Consequently, based on the status of the matter the documents are exempted vide section 16 (b) of the Access to Information Act. Please be guided accordingly, thank you.”

Section 16(b) deals with one of the provisions for exemption of documents relating to law enforcement and reads as follows:ATI Act 16(b) exempt docs

I replied on the same day asking if I could get some document from the JCF indicating that the file had been referred to the DPP – a memo or cover letter for example, which mightn’t be exempt under the ATI Act.

On March 7, 2019, I received the following acknowledgement from MNS…

“I have requested the document/s that would indicate a referral of this matter to the DPP, I will be awaiting same. It will be forwarded when received. Thank you.”

…and on March 25, 2019, I received the following response:

“Please find attached correspondence substantiating that the matter of the Walker’s Place of Safety fire (case file) was referred to the Director of Public Prosecution by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Thank you.”

The documents attached were a handwritten certified copy of an entry in the Registry Correspondence Books and a typed copy of the same. An edited image of the typed copy, which is more legible, is shared here. ATI JCF Walker's POS case file correspondence 3-19 - cropped

A list of the names of the people whose statements were sent and a list of the pieces of evidence sent were included under the heading “File Contents”. I decided, however, not to include those in my post, which is why the image is edited. And I note that the document doesn’t actually indicate who the file was sent to. I also note that the file seems to have been sent on February 7, 2019, three weeks after the first anniversary of the fire and two weeks after I made my ATI request to the JCF.

I do not know what decision the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has made regarding the file…whether or not a decision has been made to prosecute anyone for a crime in regard to the fire or the death of the girls. I wait to hear.

The Armadale Commission of Enquiry and its subsequent report demonstrated the level of enquiry and reporting that should take place if a child dies in a fire in state care, the level of reporting owed to the child, to the family, to the nation. But does it require that a Commission of Enquiry be held to get that detailed accounting? What protocols were set in place after Armadale for the proper investigation of such tragic incidents? And who has the responsibility for such an investigation and reporting?

No-one could be satisfied with the CPFSA report or the Fire Brigade report.

I have been told by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information that they have no information in response to my request about the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety and the death of the two children, that all such information would be at CPFSA. I have made a request to the Office of the Children’s Advocate, which has asked for an extension of time to consider the request and have been told I will have a response by May 19.

Some weeks ago I went with a couple of others to the site of the Walker’s Place of Safety. There was nothing at the site that would clearly indicate to someone who didn’t know that that was where the facility had been located. The remains of the building have been removed and the site cleared. The type of bush that covers open lots has grown up quickly. There are remains of a play area to the front of the cleared lot and if you walk across the lot and look closely at the ground, you can see small pieces of charred wood sparsely scattered in the dirt. To one side of the lot, there is a tree that still shows signs of being badly burnt.

(Video credit: D. A. Bullock)

The events of that night may be indelibly seared in the memories of those who experienced it directly, of the survivors, of the families of those who died, of the people who helped to rescue children, of the officials who oversaw arrangements immediately afterwards. But just as evidence of what happened at that site is fading, the memory of what happened will fade too – from public consciousness and from the official record – if there is not written accounting to be relied on.

Imagine what would be publicly known or recorded about the tragedy at Armadale if there had been no Commission of Enquiry.

What happened that night at the Walker’s Place of Safety? What led to the death of the two children? Were their deaths preventable? Where is the accounting that would let us know?

 


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Poui At UWI…And A Monument

A few weeks ago, I drove onto the UWI Mona campus via the Post Office gate. (UWI Mona = University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica). The poui trees were in bloom and it was a magnificent sight!UWI poui Post Office gate

 

Everywhere I looked…P1370962 UWI poui …there were poui blossoms…IMG_20190402_092951_resized_20190425_120325950 UWI poui

…including in front of the Gibraltar Camp monument…

UWI poui Gibraltar monument

…dedicated to the Gibraltarian Evacuees living at Gibraltar Camp, Jamaica 1940 – 1944… UWI Gibraltar memorial

…during World War II.IMG_20190424_200709_resized_20190424_080727845 UWI Gibraltar

The camp  was like a small township…IMG_20190424_200825_resized_20190424_080844069 UWI Gibraltar

The monument is sacred to the memory of…IMG_20190424_201430_resized_20190424_081449051 UWI Gibraltar monument

Yellow blossoms and names in gold…P1370969 UWI poui Gibraltar monument


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Flower: The Reproductive Portion of Any Plant in the Division Magnoliophyta (Angiospermae)…

“Flower,…Poor Man's orchid 4-19.PNG

…the reproductive portion of any plant in the division Magnoliophyta (Angiospermae),…IMG_20190414_084851_resized_20190417_110827952 flowers

…a group commonly called flowering plants…IMG_20190414_110020_resized_20190417_110248398 flowers

…or angiosperms….IMG_20190416_154246_resized_20190417_110207045 orchid blooms

As popularly used, the term “flower” especially applies…IMG_20190415_140254_resized_20190417_110348517 flowers

…when part or all of the reproductive structure is distinctive in colour…flowers - crown of thorns

and form.”IMG_20190417_110701_resized_20190417_110724825 flowers jade vine

https://www.britannica.com/science/flower


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Constitutional Court Strikes Down Jamaica’s National Identification (#NIDS) Act

In a far-reaching judgment delivered this morning, Jamaica’s Constitutional Court declared the National Identification and Registration Act, 2017 to be “unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect. The consequence of this is that the statute is struck down from the laws of Jamaica.” (Press Summary, p. 3 [5])

The full press summary is available here: Press summary of judgment in Julian J Robinson vs The Attorney General of Jamaica – April 2019NIDS press summary blog pic 4-19

The full judgment has been posted on the Supreme Court website (click here). The website also has an audio recording of Chief Justice Sykes delivering the judgment.NIDS judgment on website blog pic

I have also included a copy of the full judgment here: Robinson, Julian v The Attorney General of Jamaica – judgment 12-4-19NIDS judgment blog pic

There is much to be said about this ruling and its implications. But here is the information to start with…


Jamaica’s Constitutional Court to Live Stream Delivery of #NIDS Ruling

Yesterday a press release from Court Management Services informed the media and the public that the Constitutional Court would be delivering “its ruling in the challenge to sections of the National Identification and Registration Act, 2017 on [Friday] April 12, 2019 at 9:30am.” Court Management Services NIDS ruling release 10-4-19

In an unprecedented arrangement, an audio feed of the delivery of the ruling will be live streamed. There are three links to the live stream:

Supreme Court website: http://supremecourt.gov.jm/Supreme Court live audio streaming

Court Management Services website: http://cms.gov.jm/2019/04/10/live-judgment/Court management Services NIDS audio stream

Parish Court website: http://www.parishcourt.gov.jm/Parish Court live stream

This ruling is a highly anticipated one of great public interest and Chief Justice Bryan Sykes is keeping the commitment he made at the end of the court case in October last year that the judgment would be delivered within 180 days.SG tweet 24-10-19 NIDS Court case

The decision to live stream is also a very positive step towards increasing public understanding of court procedures, in strengthening transparency and hopefully in building greater trust in the justice system.

More to say after tomorrow….

Copy of National Identification & Registration Act, 2017NIDS Act title pic

NIDS – The National Identification and Registration Act, 2017 No. 35


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One Afternoon on Daisy Avenue, Mona Heights

We moved to Mona Heights more than fifty years ago and although we never lived on Daisy Avenue, I knew it well. I haven’t lived in Mona for decades now, but drive through often. When I saw this view recently as I drove up Daisy Avenue, I stopped to take some photos…IMG_20190403_194656_resized_20190403_074720344 Daisy Avenue Mona 3-4-19

…two magnificent Royal Palms stood guard in someone’s yard…IMG_20190403_174950_resized_20190403_055034614 Mona Daisy bicycle

…shadows on a trunk…P1380021 Mona royal palm and bougainvillea

…leaves against the sky…IMG_20190403_131900_resized_20190403_055142437 Mona Daisy royal palm

…a few moments one afternoon, on Daisy Avenue, Mona Heights…IMG_20190403_175528_resized_20190403_055552438 Mona Daisy sign