Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Increased Police Killings, Privacy & Other Concerns: INDECOM’S 1st Quarterly Report 2017

Jamaica’s Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is a Commission of Parliament mandated “to undertake investigations concerning actions by members of the Security Forces and other agents of the State that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of the rights of persons”. (INDECOM Act) The Commission began work in late 2010 and submits annual and quarterly reports to Parliament; these reports are available to the public and many are posted on INDECOM’s website. The reports give both data and analysis regarding the complaints and incidents investigated; they also include reviews of issues of concern to the Commission. In the past, these issues have included

  • deaths in custody
  • deaths of the mentally ill in confrontation with the police
  • command responsibility for the use of force
  • the School Resource Officers Programme
  • firing at vehicles.

1st Quarterly Report 2017

INDECOM 1st Quarterly Report 2017

The 1st Quarterly Report – 2017 was tabled in Parliament earlier this month and INDECOM held a press conference last Friday (May 26, 2017) to discuss the contents of the report.

Part One of the report gives information about new complaints received by INDECOM during the first three months of 2017 and lists the names of the security force-related fatalities, giving the location of each incident and which state agency was involved in the fatality.

Other information, such as Fatal Shootings by Parish, is given.

INDECOM 1st Q report 2017 p 11 chart

Part Two  of the report deals with the work of the Legal Department. It gives information on the Commission’s completed reports for the period and gives details of the recommendations of the Legal Department in 51 fatal shooting incidents. Most of these incidents took place between 2011 – 2015, but there is one case from 2008 and another from 2010. In the majority of these cases, there was the recommendation that no criminal charge be laid or disciplinary action be taken, and that the file be forwarded to the Special Coroner. In one case there was the recommendation that a policeman be charged with murder and in another case there was a confirmation of the DPP’s decision to charge a policeman with murder. INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - cases 1-2INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - case 15INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - case 22INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - case 33

The report also indicates the arrests and charges during the first quarter:INDECOM 1st Q 2017 - arrests and chanrges

Part Three of the report is on Lessons Learnt. It contains alarming data about the sharp increase in the number of people killed by the security forces in the first three months of 2017, when compared to the same period last year – a 75% increase.  This sets out in report form information that INDECOM has already communicated during the year.

The decline in security force fatalities, from above 200 killed per annum, for many years, fell to 115 in 2014. This was a 55% reduction. Fatalities dropped to 101 in 2015 and 111 in 2016.

However, the first quarter of 2017 (Jan – March) has seen a 75% increase in fatal shootings over the same period of 2016; 42 fatalities as against 24 in 2016. NB. 42 fatalities was not reached until mid-May, in 2016.

Fatal shootings in January, 2017, amounted to 19, a figure last observed in January 2014. Explanations provided by the JCF for this increase and subsequent months was reported as a rise in police confrontations with criminal gangs. (p. 31)

INDECOM press conference 26-5-17

Left to right: Denyelle Anderson (Public Relations Officer), Terrence Williams (Commissioner) , Hamish Campbell (Assistant Commissioner)

At the press conference, INDECOM Assistant Commissioner Hamish Campbell gave an update in the number of fatalities, stating that as of May 25, 2017, 64 people had been killed, compared to 44 by the same date in 2016. This is a 45% increase, which is still an alarming figure. He also reported that as of that date, the combined number of people shot and killed or shot and injured by the security forces was 87.

Mr Campbell also spoke about the fact that  46% of the people shot and killed or injured by the security forces in the first quarter of 2017 were not in possession of a firearm and 32% of them were completely unarmed.

INDECOM pictograph p. 31

Pictograph 1: Persons killed or injured without a firearm or in possession of non-firearm weapon (p. 31)

 

The section contains further information about these incidents and concludes as follows:

INDECOM 1st Q report 2017 p 33

Part Four of the report gives information about INDECOM’s meetings with the JCF, its outreach activities and press releases issued.

Additionally, the First Quarterly Report has an article on the issue of privacy and policing, dealing with surveillance, CCTV cameras and the need for regulations in Jamaica governing their use. There is also a review of the Major Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption (MOCA) Bill before Parliament and the concerns INDECOM has about aspects of the Bill. INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams spoke about these two issues at the press conference and I will comment on them in a separate blog post.

INDECOM’s Reports are a useful mechanism for the public to track the work of the Commission and some issues of great importance to the society. It is a shame that they are not the subject of more discussion and debate in the Parliament itself.

 


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Nearly A Year Later: Time for Western Kingston Commission of Enquiry Recommendations Update

Next week will be seven years since the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) joint operation in Western Kingston which resulted in the death of more than 70 people. Next month will be a year since the report of the Western Kingston Commission of Enquiry was tabled in Parliament and made public. It is certainly time for the country to get a full update on the status of the recommendations made in the report.

COE report cover blog pic

This is one of the problems with the Commission of Enquiry process. An Enquiry takes place and at the end of the process, strong and pertinent recommendations are sometimes made. At that point, another process starts or should start, but there is no formal requirement ensuring that next phase. There should be a system whereby the government is required to outline publicly which of the recommendations it has accepted, what steps it intends to take towards implementation and the timelines associated with that implementation. There should also be a formal process whereby the government is required to give periodic official public updates on the progress of that implementation, perhaps through scheduled reports to Parliament. This is not a new problem and contributes in part to the widely held belief that Commissions of Enquiry are a waste of time and money, as nothing ever comes of them.

Delroy Chuck MOJThe Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck has attempted to move in that direction, having given some updates from time to time in Parliament and otherwise, updates about the setting up of a Cabinet Committee, the selection of the Chair of the Compensation Committee and the start of the Committee’s work, and the intention of the Government to apologise, for example. There have been statements by the JDF and the JCF indicating that they were working on some of the recommendations that applied to them. But this is an ad hoc process, and though things may well have progressed beyond what the public is aware of, there has been no formal, predictable structure for any updates.

In his Budget Debate presentation in Parliament on March 21, 2017, Prime Minister Andrew Holness committed to apologising to victims of the Tivoli operation when he said:

The wrongs of the past must be acknowledged and an apology offered to the victims of state-inflicted violence as recommended by constituted review bodies. On behalf of the Jamaican State and in my capacity as Prime Minister I will make the apology in Parliament to victims of the Tivoli Incursion and the Coral Gardens Incident.

PM Holness 2017 Budget DebateThe Prime Minister has made the apology for Coral Gardens, but hasn’t yet apologised for the abuses during the operation in Western Kingston and no date has been given for when he will. He made no other specific reference to the Commission’s recommendations during his presentation. Additionally, neither Minister Chuck nor Minister of National Security Robert Montague made specific reference to the Commission’s recommendations during their recent Sectoral Debate presentations or used the occasion to give a specific update on progress with implementation of the recommendations.  Also, I am not aware of any comprehensive public updates from the JDF and JCF after their initial responses to the Commission’s report.

I may well have missed some updates that have been given in Parliament or elsewhere, and I am sure that I could find additional information if I made Access to Information requests to various government ministries and bodies. I could also probably find additional information by searching the Hansard record for relevant dates. But the information ought to be more easily accessible and we should have some prescribed timelines for updates. I would like to suggest that sometime in June, twelve months after the Commission’s report was tabled in Parliament, would be a good time for a comprehensive update on what progress has been made on each of the Commission’s recommendations. The update should clearly state whether any progress has been made, the nature of that progress and what remains to be done, including relevant timelines. Instances in which no further action is planned should also be clearly stated. And as these updates are being contemplated and given, it is important to acknowledge again that this isn’t simply a paper exercise. It is about real people who were directly or indirectly impacted by the events, about a government giving account to its people, about preventing such occurrences happening again and about a process of justice and healing.

Recommendations of the Western Kingston Commission of Enquiry

Below I will set out briefly the recommendations made in Chapter 15 of the Report, for which progress updates need to be given.

UPDATE NEEDED REGARDING STATUS OF IMPLENTATION OF RECOMMENDATIONS INCLUDED IN REPORT OF WESTERN KINGSTON COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY CONCLUDED IN 2016
SECTION OF CHAPTER 15 RECOMMENDATIONS COMMENTS
INTRODUCTION 15.1 The Commission indicates that in other Chapters in the report they “have recommended that further investigations be carried out as a matter of justice and with a view to preventing a recurrence of similar events.” The bodies responsible for the further investigations, such as the JCF and INDECOM, should give an update on the status of such investigations.
PART 1-REDRESS

1. APOLOGY

 

15.7 “…we recommend that the GoJ apologize in Parliament to the people of West Kingston and Jamaica as a whole for the excesses of the security forces during the operation. The Government is, in the last resort, responsible for the conduct of its security forces.” The Prime Minister has indicated in Parliament that he will make this apology. He should indicate the date on which he will apologise and carry this out.
2. COUNSELLING FOR TRAUMATISED PERSONS

 

 

15.8 “…we are satisfied that there needs to be a programme of continuing counselling for some of the residents including children.”

 

15.9 “We therefore recommend that this matter be pursued by the appropriate Ministry.”

The Government should indicate which Ministry is responsible for implementing this recommendation, what programme is in place and what counselling has been and will be provided.
3. COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS 15.12 “…we recommend the establishment of a Compensation Committee with two broad mandates…”

15.13 “We respectfully further recommend that the Compensation Committee be chaired by a retired judge or senior attorney-atlaw…and the Committee should be directed to complete its work within 9 months.”

The Chair of the Compensation Committee could give an indication of the progress of the Committee in its work and should indicate whether it will complete its work within the recommended 9-month period.
4. WAIVER OF LIMITATION PERIOD 15.14 The Commission refers to the legal restrictions regarding the timeframe in which claims against the State can be brought, 3 years in some instances and 6 years in others.

 

15.15 “We therefore recommend that the State waive its strict legal rights to all claims and agree to settle compensation on an ex gratia basis in respect of claims brought by aggrieved persons, personal representatives and/or near relations and/or dependents of deceased persons.”

The Government needs to confirm its position regarding the recommended waiver.

 

The Office of the Public Defender should give an update regarding its participation as referenced in 15.15

PART 2 -PREVENTION

 

15.16 The Commission gives a non-exhaustive list of measures that would prevent similar events in the future.
1. ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEWS 15.17 “Consistent with our findings with regard to the conduct of certain officers and other ranks of the JCF and JDF, we recommend that both forces undertake administrative reviews of the conduct of the named officers….We note that since May 2010, some of these officers have been promoted – in some cases to very senior ranks.”

 

15.18 “We recommend that the serving police officers against whom adverse findings have been made be relieved of any operational commands that they may hold and that they be prohibited from serving in any special operations units.”

 

15.19 The Commission indicated the allegations of involvement of members of the Mobile Reserve in extra-judicial killings.

 

15.20 “Where the accusations of extra-judicial killings on the part of the security forces were found by this Commission to be credible, and where persons were identified as being in dereliction of duty or were administratively or operationally incompetent, we recommend that these persons should never again be allowed to lead or otherwise participate in internal security operations.”

 

15.21 “We further recommend that the Mobile Reserve be subjected to special external oversight arrangements.”

The JCF and JDF should give an update on the status of the recommended administrative reviews of the named officers.

 

The JCF should give an update regarding the recommendation to relieve certain officers of operational command.

 

The Government should give an update regarding the recommended special external oversight arrangements for Mobile Reserve.

2. USE OF WEAPONS SYSTEMS 15.22 The Commission pointed to the need for “policies that guide the selection of weapons systems that may be used in internal security operations….We strongly recommend that a group of competent persons be tasked to draft such a policy.”

 

Future use of Mortars and other Indirect Fire Weapons

15.24 “We therefore recommend that, in future, the leadership of the JDF pay careful regard to contemporary best practice and learning in relation to the use of weapons of indirect fire. Consistent with international humanitarian law, the use of these weapons in built-up areas should be prohibited.”

 

 

The Government should indicate the status of drafting policies regarding selection of weapons systems for internal security operations.

 

The JDF should indicate the status of its review of future use of mortars and other indirect fire weapons.

3. IMPROVING LEGAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR USE OF FORCE 15.27 “…we recommend the following firearm related systems and procedures for favourable consideration by the GoJ:” These are set out in (a) – (e).

 

 

 

 

 

Use of Masks or Other Concealment Gear

15.28 “…we recommend that the use of masks and/or other concealment gear be limited to special cases when the identities of particular officers and units are best protected by these means. We also recommend that where masks and other concealment gear are used by entire units or groups, this be done only with the approval of the CDS and CoP for the JDF and JCF respectively….Moreover, we recommend that in all cases, there be reliable and verifiable means of internally identifying all individuals for whom approval is given to wear masks and or other concealment gear….

 

Body Worn Cameras

15.32 “This recommendation should also apply to soldiers who participate in special policing operations.”

15.33 The Commission recommends the use of body worn cameras by the police. “We therefore recommend the introduction of this type of technology.”

 

 

The Government should give an update regarding the status of the recommendations to do with firearm related systems and procedures; for several of these, the JCF’s update would be relevant.

 

 

The government should give an update regarding the policy regarding wearing of masks or other concealment gear; the JDF and JCF updates would be relevant here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Government should give an update regarding the implementation of the recommendation for the use of body worn cameras by the JCF and JDF. The JCF update would be relevant here.

 

Of particular note is the status of the protocols to govern use of body worn cameras. Body worn cameras are now being used by some members of the JCF. Earlier this year, INDECOM indicated that at that time it did not know what the protocols were; the public also does not know what the protocols are.

4. ACCOUNTABILITY IN JOINT OPERATIONS – A TRANSITION COMMAND PROTOCOL 15.34 “We recommend that the JDF and JCF fashion a transition command protocol that would be applied in instances of large-scale joint internal security operations.” The JDF and JCF should give an update regarding the status of this recommended protocol.
5. STRENGTHEN OVERSIGHT OF THE JCF 15.35 “We recommend that they [INDECOM, PCOA & PSC] be strengthened in terms of their capacities to fulfill their functions effectively.” The Government should give an update regarding measures taken to strengthen the capacities of INDECOM, the PCOA & the PSC.
6. OVERSIGHT OF THE JDF’S INVOLVEMENT IN POLICING OPERATIONS 15.36 “…to the extent that the JDF has become routinely involved in policing and is required to play a major role in internal security operations, it is our view that this aspect of their work, that is, their policing work, should be subjected to a greater measure of external civilian oversight.” The Government should give an update regarding this recommendation to increase external civilian oversight of the JDF’s policing work . The JDF’s update would be relevant in this regard.
7. TACKLING THE GARRISON PHENOMENON 15.41 The Commission noted the establishment of a police post in Tivoli Gardens after May 24, 2010 and recommended “that this approach be replicated in those garrison constituencies where none presently exists.”

 

 

15.42 “In addition, since “de-garrisonisation” ultimately requires consensus among political parties, we recommend

a. A bi-partisan approach leading to agreement towards the dismantling of garrison communities facilitated by an independent third party.

b. A road map for “de-garrisonisation” should be handed over to an independent body similarly structured in composition to the Electoral Commission, to develop the details of the process.

 

15.43 In relation to “de-garrisonisation”, the Commission made several recommendations to do with allocation of resources, set out in (i) – (iii).

 

The Government should give an update regarding the recommendation to establish police posts in garrison constituencies which did not have one. The JCF update would be relevant in this regard.

 

The Government should give updates about the implementation of the recommendations regarding the process and the allocation of resources relating to “de-garrisonisation”.

8. ACTION RECOMMENDATIONS OF ECLAC 15.45 The Commission endorsed the recommendations made by ECLAC in its report on the impact of the May 2010 events in Jamaica.

 

15.46 The Commission also “endorsed the main conclusion of the report that a medium to long-term programme of rehabilitation and revitalisation of the affected communities should be developed in order to integrate those communities into Jamaican society.”

 

15.47 “As part of a programme for inner city renewal and development we recommend that the Government should vigorously pursue the private sector’s assistance by inviting them to embrace the Urban Renewal (Tax Relief) Act.”

The Government should give an update regarding the recommendations to do with “[s]ustainable development… in addressing the problems in the low-income urban areas.”
9. REVIEW AND REFORM OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM 15.48 “We recommend that there should be a thorough-going holistic review of the existing criminal justice system followed thereafter by appropriate administrative and legislative action.” The Government should give an update regarding this recommended review.
10. AMENDMENT OF EXTRADITION ACT 15.50 “We recommend that section 8 of the Extradition Act be amended to make it mandatory that the Minister make a decision on authority to proceed within a finite time.”

 

15.51 The Commission made recommendations regarding not publicizing extradition requests and the Attorney General’s intention to sign the Authority to Proceed. Also recommended AG immediately informing the Commissioner of Police upon its execution.

The government should give an update regarding the recommended amendment to the Extradition Act.

 

 


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350 Words or Less: Police Using Body Cameras, But What Protocol Is Regulating Their Use?

This morning I saw a Gleaner report that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is now actually using body cameras in some divisions.

This seems to follow on from the launch of a pilot project last summer and I wondered if the promised protocol to regulate their use had been completed.sg-tweet-re-jcf-body-cameras-21-2-17

I am very disturbed to now see a press release this afternoon from the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) saying that the JCF has not yet shared with it – the independent oversight body – “the proposed procedures and protocols that will govern the use of the equipment, collection and storage of data, and subsequent viewing of the footage.”indecom-press-release-jcf-body-cameras-21-2-17

The protocol regulating the police use of body cameras will to a great extent determine their usefulness as a tool to support both accountability and crime fighting. This has been clearly seen in other jurisdictions, probably best known in cases in the USA. Regulations regarding when cameras are turned on and off, how data is stored and protected, who has access to the footage and sanctions for failure to comply with the regulations are all extremely important. Also, a particular issue which has arisen in many instances in the USA is that of release of footage to the public. It is not tenable that body cameras are in use, but regulations have not yet been finalised and made public.

The importance of such a protocol has long been acknowledged. In January 2014, then Minister of National Security Peter Bunting  “noted that a protocol will be established, making it mandatory for the officers to engage the cameras once they are going on an operation.” (JIS report, January 24, 2014) Similar assurances were given last year when the body camera launch took place. Perhaps Minister Montague or Acting Commissioner Grant could give a public update regarding the current status of this essential protocol.

Some Related Links

Jamaica Observer: Police finally wearing body cameras-February 21, 2017

JCF: Police Issued with Body Worn Cameras – August 27, 2016

Jamaicans for Justice: JFJ Welcomes Police Body Cameras, Calls for Strong Protocols – August 25, 2016

Jamaica Information Service: Body Cameras for Policemen – January 24, 2014

 


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Advertising for Police Commissioner & Other Public Posts

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Novelette Grant will assume the position of Acting-Commissioner on January 7, 2017, when the current Commissioner’s resignation takes effect. Commissioner Carl Williams’ resignation became public on December 22, 2016, when his resignation letter, submitted weeks earlier, was leaked. Commissioner Williams explained that the timing and manner in which his resignation became public knowledge wasn’t the best, as it had been planned that the news wouldn’t be made public until the selection of Acting-Commissioner had been completed. rjr-report-on-resignation-of-cop-williams-22-12-16This RJR report (including an audio clip from his interview with journalist Dionne Jackson Miller) was one of many media reports dealing with the news of Commissioner Williams’ resignation at the time.

The Ministry of National Security quickly issued a press release  thanking Commissioner Williams for his service and dealing with other issues connected with the resignation and replacement process. (mns-police-commissioner-to-demit-office-22-12-16)

dcp-novelette-grantThe following day, the Police Service Commission (PSC) announced that DCP Grant would act as Commissioner during the search period, a process that is expected to take 90 days. In a speech on Sunday (Jan 1, 2017), DCP Grant made the pragmatic statement that there would be no miracles in the process of dealing with crime and none should be expected of her.

Also on Sunday, the advertisement for the post of Commissioner was carried in the press. It focussed on the duties and responsibilities of Commissioner and set out the deadline and contacts for submission of applications. DCP Grant is so far the only person to have publicly declared an intention to apply for the post and she is, in fact, a very likely candidate for selection.

gleaner-advt-for-commissioner-of-police-1-1-17-pt-1gleaner-advt-for-commissioner-of-police-1-1-17-pt-2

I think that the advertisement posted is seriously lacking in one regard. It does not set out in any specificity the qualifications and experience required of applicants for the post of Commissioner of Police. What level of experience in law enforcement is required? Must experience be within policing or will experience in some other context be considered, for example the military, correctional services or private security? Is there a minimum number of years of experience necessary for consideration? What level of supervisory/managerial experience is required? What are the preferred and minimum educational requirements for the post? These are a few of the requirements that could reasonably be expected to be specified in such an advertisement. It would also be useful to know if the PSC is advertising the post outside of Jamaica, regionally or further afield.

I have long thought that this is an approach that should be taken routinely when advertising vacant public posts, not just for the current vacancy for Commissioner of Police. It gives the public a clearer idea of the criteria considered important for successful fulfilment of the job. It also gives the public a basis for evaluating how well the candidate eventually appointed meets the required qualifications and experience for the post. This would support the increased move towards transparency and accountability required in modern approaches to good governance. It is not too late for the PSC to adopt this approach, and perhaps it is time for this to become routine and required when advertising  vacancies for public posts in Jamaica.

 

 

 


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Crimes Committed by People on Bail: An Access to Information Story

Jamaica’s Access to Information (ATI) Act was passed in 2002 and I believe, despite some of the weaknesses which remain in its provisions, it is an extremely important and potentially powerful tool for members of the public.

The following objectives are stated in the legislation:ati-act-objectives

In addition to some problems with the legislation itself, there can be challenges to getting the requested information. Sometimes use of the Act goes smoothly; sometimes it does not. Here’s a recent and still ongoing experience of mine.

June 17, 2016

minister-montagueI heard a radio news report  about a speech that the Minister of National Security Robert Montague had given at a function the day before, in which he had made comments about people committing crimes while on bail and the need to make changes to the Bail Act because of this.

By email, I made the following request to the Ministry of National Security (MNS) under the provisions of the ATI Act:

I would like to make an ATI request for all data, reports, memos, correspondence, minutes, etc regarding people on bail who have allegedly committed further offences while on bail.

I heard Minister Montague on a clip on the news today giving some figures at an event yesterday, which I hope would be included in the information I am requesting.

I received this response from MNS:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your Access to Information Request, which will be processed and dealt with accordingly.

I heard nothing further for two months.

 August 18, 2016

I received an email from MNS:

I am hereby making the request for an extension of time to supply information regarding your requests, the request was dispatched for the attention of the respective party that would probably have such information in their possession. However, the information has not yet been provided to this office. Thank you

September 6, 2016

I sent the following response to MNS:

I note your request for an extension of time in providing the information I requested on June 17. However, given that this request was made 60 days since I made my request, I will be referring this to the Appeal Tribunal. 
I also note that no valid reason has been given for this delay.
That same day, I filed a request for an appeal before the ATI Appeal Tribunal.

September 9, 2016

I received the following from MNS:

This is to inform that your request was forwarded to the appropriate personnel/department to supply information with regards to your request. However, the information that you desire does not rest with this office and as such we do not have direct control for when the information is supplied in most instances. I regret the delay, however the information if available, will be forwarded as soon as it is obtained, thank you.

I replied to MNS:

If the information is not held by the Ministry of National Security, then my request ought to have been transferred to the relevant government ministry/agency and I should have been notified of that transfer. I haven’t been. If the information is held by the Ministry of National Security, in whichever office or section, the requirements of the ATI Act would apply.
I have made a request to the ATI Tribunal for an appeal regarding the Ministry’s failure to provide the information.

October 14, 2016

Following some intervention by the ATI Unit, I received the following email from MNS with a document attached:

Please find attached the information that was requested Re: “Persons on Bail Committing Additional Offences”. Apologies are extended for the delay in the conveying of this response.

jcf-bail-doc-coverA copy of the document (Jamaica Constabulary Force – Assessment – Impact on Serious Crimes by Persons on Bail – June 28, 2016) is availble here: jcf-assessment-on-serious-crimes-by-persons-on-bail-28-06-16

I sent the following response to MNS:

Thank you for your email and the attached document.
I am not satisfied, however, that this fulfills my request made on June 17, 2016 for:
“all data, reports, memos, correspondence, minutes, etc regarding people on bail who have allegedly committed further offences while on bail”
to which I added the following identifier:
“I heard Minister Montague on a clip on the news today giving some figures at an event yesterday, which I hope would be included in the information I am requesting.”
 
The single document provided is a JCF report dated June 28, 2016. Since this is subsequent to the date of my request and the date on which the Minister made his public statement, I must assume that further documentation resides with the Ministry of National Security.
If indeed it is the Ministry’s position that it holds no other “data, reports, memos, correspondence, minutes, etc” as per my request, then I would appreciate a definitive statement of this.

October 21, 2016

I have not yet had a response from MNS to my email sent on October 14 and my request before the Appeal Tribunal remains in place.

Restricting Bail Provisions & the Document Provided by MNS

The issue of passing or amending legislation to restrict access to bail beyond existing provisions is not a new one. Among the six anti-crime bills passed in 2010 were two amendments to the Bail Act, which were subsequently challenged in court and in 2011 were ruled unconstitutional and therefore void. (Nation, Adrian v The Director of Public Prosecutions and The Attorney General of Jamaica)

The issue was again raised this year when Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated the Government’s intention to amend the Bail Act during his Budget Debate presentation in Parliament on May 24. ag-mmf-5-7-16Minister Montague made his speech on June 16 (Jamaica Observer, 17/10/16)  and public discussion further intensified following Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte’s Sectoral Debate presentation on July 5, in which she stated

So, Mr Speaker, we are going to touch the Bail Act, again….We are going to make some radical changes. Right now, the sentiment is one of “no bail for murder, unless self defence arises on the Crown’s case and the likelihood of an acquittal is high’.

So four months after I began my ATI quest to get documents from the Ministry of National Security giving information about people on bail who have committed further offences while on bail – documents which might empirically ground the Government’s declared intention to amend the Bail Act – I have received one document, a six-page assessment by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Only 3 of those pages deal with crimes committed by people on bail, and the information given is of a fairly cursory nature.

If this is the only document MNS has which deals with this topic, then it is frightening to think that this is what is being used to support a decision to amend the Bail Act.

If there are other documents held by MNS – or any other Ministry or public authority – then the MNS has failed in its duty to comply with the provisions of the Access to Information Act.

I await further communication from MNS or the hearing of my requested appeal before the ATI Appeal Tribunal to discover which of these two bleak possibilities is the case.

 


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Him Done Dead Already: Police Handling of Bodies After Fatal Shootings

It is clear from the video that the police think the man they are throwing into the back of their pickup is already dead. Their disregard is graphically captured, as are the distressed wails and shouts from some of the people witnessing what is happening. The police drive off quickly, once the back of the pickup is secured.

The Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) released the following statement by its Commissioner Terrence Williams on May 27, regarding recent incidents in which the police have shown a lack of respect in their treatment of bodies of people allegedly killed by the police:
INDECOM Press Release 29-5-16 pg1

State Agents’ failure to respect the dead

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) notes the recent circulation of a video within public media fora, which records members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) handling the apparent lifeless body of Mr. John Hibbert on May 17, 2016 following his alleged fatal shooting by JCF officers. The video shows police officers throwing Mr. Hibbert into the back of a JCF service vehicle.

What is both disturbing and unacceptable is the manner in which the body of Mr. Hibbert is ‘flung’ into the back of the vehicle with absolutely no regard or sense of ‘humanity’ for him. All citizens, irrespective of what they have allegedly done, or who they may be, are entitled to be treated with a measure of respect.

The removal of the deceased from any crime scene, whether by police officers, ambulance service or mortuary officials is deserving of a level of professionalism, dignity and respect, both for the dead and for those family members and friends who are often present.

State Agents are not qualified medical personnel and they cannot formally pronounce persons as dead. They are required to always treat a victim as injured until pronounced dead by a qualified person. Hence, in all cases, a measure of urgency is to be employed when treating with injured persons. The JCF has very clear guidelines within their own ‘Human Rights and Use of Force Policy’ which directs, ‘… that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment’. [Section 57(3)]. This video provides no evidence of this prescribed approach.

The Commission has observed a recent trend in which photographs and videos are circulated on social media platforms following security force-related fatal shootings. Photographs recently posted on the internet concerned two fatal shootings on the 12th and 13th of April 2016.

The photographs show the clearest evidence of a dead person, taken in circumstances in which it is more than reasonable to assume were recorded by State Agents or permitted by them, but in which it was reported that the injured persons were “rushed to hospital.” Such photographic evidence provides a contradictory account to there being any ‘injured’ person or any urgency in being ‘rushed to hospital’. Such photography eliminates the credibility of such statements.

The current video and recent uploading of pictures of people killed by the security forces is observed both nationally and internationally across the World Wide Web, and does little to enhance the reputation of the Jamaican police service. The Commission has received comments and complaints and we urge State Agents to ensure they act, at all times, with the utmost professionalism and demonstrate the due respect for citizens and the families of these dead or injured men.

As the Indian Union Home Minister Rajneth Singh recently commented, following a death in which paramilitary forces were involved, “…as a civilized society it is a common gesture that the dead body of a person be treated with utmost respect and dignity…”

Commissioner of INDECOM, Terrence Williams

The INDECOM Commissioner raises concerns about

  • the way in which the body was thrown into the back of the police vehicle
  • the taking and posting online of photos of people killed by the police & the suggested involvement or complicity of police in the taking of such photos
  • a lack of urgency in taking people shot by police for medical treatment or to be pronounced dead by medical personnel.

Some of these are concerns that have been expressed over many years.

Williams points out that the police, not being medical personnel, are not able formally to pronounce someone dead. This is the reason the police routinely give for not leaving bodies in place at scenes of police killings to enable police photographers or forensic teams to examine bodies where they fell. They say they must take the person to a hospital, as they can’t presume that the person is dead.

In principle, this is a valid reason. Yet often the way the person is handled (as in the video referred to by INDECOM) or the lack of urgency in taking the person to the medical facility shows clearly that the police have already pronounced that him done dead already. If not, they would be handling an injured person in a way which would be a gross dereliction of their duty, according to their own “Human Rights and Use of Force Policy”.

There have been many accounts over decades of police throwing people – dead or still alive – into trunks of police cars or the back of other vehicles, for the journey to the hospital. And many accounts of delays in taking them to hospital.

Basil Brown – Killed February 17, 2003

map showing Kingsway Hope Rd corner

One such instance comes to mind, that of Basil Brown, shot by a policeman on February 17, 2003, across the road from Andrews Memorial Hospital, at the corner of Kingsway Avenue and Hope Road. Witnesses at the scene said that Mr Brown was alive when he was lifted into a van and that nurses who had observed the incident were calling for him to be brought into the hospital. That request was ignored and he was taken instead to the University Hospital some distance away. However, instead of taking the most direct route – straight up Hope Road towards Papine, they set off along Kingsway Avenue, and by the time they arrived at University Hospital, Mr Brown was dead.

Braeton Seven – Killed March 14, 2001

In March 2003, Amnesty International published a report titled “Jamaica: The killing of the Braeton Seven – A justice system on trial”. This was after the conclusion of the Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of the seven youths killed by police in a house in Braeton, St Catherine, on March 14, 2001.

AI photo from 3-2003 Braeton report

(Photo credit: Amnesty International)

A section in the report deals with the delay in removal of the bodies:

Removal of the bodies

The positioning of dead bodies, blood trails and other evidence can give vital information as to how an individual was killed. Yet the police moved the bodies of the seven before any officer independent of the killings had an opportunity to examine or record their positions. The police later justified their action on the grounds that they had taken the youths to receive medical attention. However, police evidence to the Coroner’s Court suggested that the bodies were left for some time before being taken to hospital. In his original statement to investigators, Senior Superintendent of Police Adams said that the “injured persons” were removed between 4.45 and 5.15am. All the statements made by police officers suggest that the incident was over by around 5am, with references to the “injured” men being “rushed” or “immediately taken” to hospital. One police driver said in his statement that he was instructed to take the men to hospital at approximately 5.30am.AI 2003 Braeton report quote

However, there is clearly a discrepancy of around 40 minutes or longer in the time of departure from Braeton and arrival at the hospital. The men were not documented as arriving at the hospital until approximately 6.20am. A statement by another police driver clearly suggested a delay before they were taken to hospital: “I heard loud explosions that sounded like gunshot, this lasted for some time. About an hour later I was instructed by SSP [Senior Superintendent of Police] Adams…to take them [three of the seven] to hospital.” Another police driver testified before the Coroner’s Court that a journey from Braeton to Spanish Town Public Hospital, in a police car with the sirens on, took 10 minutes at that time of day. Television journalist Michael Pryce told the Court that the police took some time to remove the bodies and that they were loaded into police jeeps “between 6.10 and 6.25/6.30am”.

It is clear from the statements given by various sources, including numerous police officers, that the dead men were not taken to hospital immediately following the incident. In the unlikely event that the men were not dead, the police would have been derelict in their duty for allowing them to die without prompt medical treatment. However, the more likely scenario is that the seven were obviously dead, given the severity of their wounds, and that the police therefore knew medical treatment was not required. In such an event, the appropriate action for the police would have been to leave the bodies wherever they fell, for the investigators to photograph and collect forensic information. (pp 11-12)

Amnesty International – March 2003 Report – Jamaica -The Killing of the Braeton 7

(Six policemen were later charged with murder in the Braeton Seven case, but were acquitted at trial in February 2005.)

In the INDECOM release, Commissioner Williams speaks about an erosion in credibility of police accounts of rushing injured people to hospital. He speaks about damage to the reputation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) locally and internationally. He speaks about the need for the police to act with professionalism and respect. He is correct.

Will Police Commissioner Carl Williams have anything to say on this matter?

 

 

 

 

 

 


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While Waiting for the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry Report

May 24 will make 6 years since the 2010 joint security operation in West Kingston, which resulted in the death of more than 70 people, and by all indications the report of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry will be submitted to the Governor General before then. It isn’t yet clear, however, when the report will be made public. It would certainly be fitting if that were to happen before May 24.

The last session of the Enquiry took place between February 8 – 19 (2016) and was to a large extent overshadowed by the political campaigning leading up to the general election on February 25.

The Commission held its first sitting on December 1, 2014 and held a total of 90 sittings over 15 months. It was presided over by three commissioners – Sir David Simmons (Chairman), Justice Hazel Harris and Professor Anthony Harriott.

The Enquiry had specific Terms of Reference (Terms of Reference for the Commission of Enquiry into events which occured in Western Kingston and related areas in May 2010) and more than 90 witnesses gave testimony, including:

  • residents of West Kingston
  • former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, former Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson, former Attorney General & Minister of Justice Dorothy Lightbourne
  • former Chief of Defence Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Major General Stewart Saunders and other members of the JDF
  • former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington and other members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force
  • former Public Defender Earl Witter, QC
  • other civilian witnesses, public officials and expert witnesses.

The release of the report will raise again for discussion the value of having had the Enquiry. In this regard, comments made by Lord Anthony Gifford, QC, who represented the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), are important; the comments were made on February 18, 2016, at the start of his final submissions to the Commission.

WKGNCOE Gifford 18-2-16

Seated behind Lord Anthony Gifford is Mrs Arlene Harrison-Henry, the current Public Defender

Lord Gifford thanked former Public Defender Earl Witter for having called for the Enquiry,and for his work on investigations towards  that end. He then went on to address the Chairman on the importance of holding the Enquiry:

Mr Chairman, we are going to be urging that you and your colleagues make strong findings in relation to a number of human rights abuses. We hope and trust that your report will be a historic document, which will reduce or eliminate such abuses in the future. But Mr Chairman, I would like to say publicly to those who have had doubts about the value of this enquiry that already the process, which has happened over the last  90 days (but in fact, year and a quarter) has had in itself immense value. And I say that for three reasons.

First of all, it has shown that an event which has cost around 70 lives in one operation cannot be swept under the carpet. It is legally a part of the duty of the state under the right to life, that when life is taken by agents of the state there must be a full and impartial enquiry. So that what has been done was necessary by the Constitution and by international principles.

And in the holding of it and the managing of it, I pay tribute to the even-handedness of you, Mr Chairman, and the intense interest, dedication that you all have shown, especially, may I say, at times when the argument has been robust or the scenes have been emotional. And coupled with thanks to you, I would thank your Secretary and all her staff for the efficient assistance which they have given.

It’s not just a question of law. The second value of the process so far has been that voices, it has enabled the voices of the residents, many residents of Tivoli Gardens to be heard. These are voices which are normally not heard but they have been heard over the last year, the length and breadth of Jamaica and further afield. And I thank the members of the media who have enabled the transmission of these hearings, to all those (and there are many) who have watched them or listened to them in their workplace or their homes. And those voices have been the heart of this enquiry. I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the civilian witnesses, who came forward, re-living the pain of their experiences as they spoke about the loved ones who are here no more. And I say to those witnesses, without your participation, this enquiry would have had little or no value.

Mr Chairman, thirdly, it has been valuable because this enquiry has required those who hold and have held some of the highest offices in the land to come here, account for their actions and be subjected to severe and intense questioning and scrutiny. That does not usually happen. People like the Chief of the General Staff and the Police Commissioner don’t often have to answer questions in justification of what they did. And the exercise has been very revealing. And that is why I wanted to say that, quite apart from the contents of your report, what has happened already has had value in recognizing the pain, the trauma and by re-living it and questioning it to make it bring some kind of understanding and, in due course, we hope closure.

(Transcript made from February 18, 2016 broadcast of Enquiry)

The Submissions and Recommendations made by the OPD are posted on its website, which is  welcome and useful. The OPD’s April 2013 Interim Report to Parliament is also available on the site.

OPD WKGNCOE submissions pic OPD Written Submissions to Commission of Enquiry

OPD WKGNCOE recommendations picOPD Recommendations to Commission of Enquiry

OPD Tivoli Interim Report picOPD April 2013 Interim Report to Parliament

Horace LevyHorace Levy has written an article summarizing the OPD’s Submissions and Recommendations, which can be accessed here.

The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry is part of a process. The publishing of the report will not signal the end of that process. It is one more step or milestone in a much longer journey towards accountability and justice for the largest loss of life in a single security operation in Jamaica since Independence (indeed, since the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865, though some object to this reference).