Right Steps & Poui Trees


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No, Seriously…That’s Why the Police Aren’t Using Their Body-Worn Cameras?

COP AndersonAbout two weeks ago there was an article in the Gleaner with the headline Police Not Making Full Use of Body Cameras – Commissioner, in which the new Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson seems to have given us a somewhat clearer idea of why to date no member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has been wearing a body-camera in any incident requiring investigation by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM). No fatal shooting, no shooting resulting in injury, no altercation, nothing. No incident occurring on any planned operation, not on any unplanned operation, not on any planned stationary vehicle check point, nothing. And this after these body-cameras were introduced with much hype and fanfare, having been donated by the US Embassy in August 2016. (See blog post Jamaica’s Body-Worn Cameras: A Comfort to a Fool?)

As one of the “different sectors of the society asking for an update on the cameras and why there was no footage from any operations that featured body cameras”, I was intrigued to see the Commissioner being quoted as follows regarding the lack of use  of the body cameras:

“One, you don’t have enough, and, two, our uniforms don’t have the technology to actually properly wear them. We are looking at some other models that we have seen recently. We have met some representatives up to last week that, perhaps, will suit what we do better”. (Gleaner, May 9, 2018)

An inadequate number of body cameras does not explain why the available cameras have not been deployed on planned operations where confrontations are most likely to occur. A logical approach would see these operations as priority for deployment. The other reason given is beyond belief…that police uniforms don’t have the “technology” for attaching the body cameras properly! When was this deficiency first discovered? Was there no consultation between the JCF and the US Embassy before the particular body cameras were obtained and donated? At what point was it planned to inform the public of this ridiculous problem preventing use of the body cameras? Does this mean that the existing body cameras are to be discarded?

The article also quotes Commissioner Anderson as saying:

“When you introduce new things and new capabilities, it’s a process. You don’t just buy something to stick them on. There’s a training component, there’s an equipment back-up component, a logistics component, a command and control component to it. There’s a whole thing that you used to deliver capabilities, but we haven’t been that good at it”. (Gleaner, May 9, 2018)

So the announcement of the donation of the body cameras in August 2016 and the announcement of the deployment of the cameras in February 2017 and the failure to give any official update to the public regarding the use of the body cameras or any official evaluation of the project has all resulted in the declared use of body cameras  by the JCF being an elaborate comfort to a fool.

I am glad that the Commissioner of Police has answered some questions from a reporter, but perhaps it is time for a full and official update by the Minister of National Security in Parliament.

(I have now done 5 or 6 blog posts about the body-worn cameras and the JCF, if you wish more information about the issue.)


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A New Commissioner. A New Force?

COP QualloLast year January the Police Service Commission (PSC) was in the process of “seeking to identify a suitably qualified candidate either from within or outside the Jamaica Constabulary Force to fill the post of Commissioner of Police as soon as possible.” Less than a year after the new Commissioner of Police was appointed, the PSC is again in that process, as Commissioner George Quallo is set to demit office this week.

In a blog post on January 3, 2017, Advertising for Police Commissioner & Other Public Posts, I shared the advertisement for Commissioner of Police placed in the newspapers on January 1 that year and raised some concerns about the advertising and selection process, concerns which I continue to have.

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.

As Commissioner Quallo leaves office and as the selection process for the new Commissioner takes place, the public has no specific idea of what qualifications and experience the PSC is looking for in a “suitably qualified candidate”, beyond “strong managerial experience”. The public has no idea how well the outgoing Commissioner fit the PSC’s criteria and will have no idea how well the new Commissioner selected fits those criteria, unless the PSC decides to be more forthcoming this time round.

As would be expected, there are discussions in the traditional and social media about what people would want to see in a new Commissioner. One thread of discussion is that the new Commissioner should be someone capable of leading a process of reform/change/transformation in the police force. As Professor Anthony Clayton said in a discussion on the Nationwide News programme Nationwide @ Five yesterday, “So we are not looking for a continuity candidate; we are looking for a change candidate.”

But the question arises: Change to what? It has long been known that there is a need for fundamental reform of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and over many years there have been reviews and reports giving recommendations for such reform. The 2008 Strategic Review of the JCF report detailed many such recommendations itself, and in its Appendix E provided a useful review of the recommendations of a number of previous reports. If we are expecting the new Commissioner of Police to lead reform of the JCF, it would be good if there were a clear, accepted, official outline of what that reform would look like and would entail.JCF Strategic Review Appendix E

JCF_2008 Strategic_Review_Appendices

Montague 23-1-18In Parliament last week (January 23, 2018), Minister of National Security Robert Montague gave an update on “a number of issues pertaining to National Security”; this was in the context of the State of Public Emergency declared for the parish of St James the previous week. In a section of his presentation titled Legislative changes, Minister Montague reiterated the Government’s intention to :replace the current Act governing the JCF:

Sir, we intend to table within 6 months a Police Service Act which will replace the
150 year old Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Act which will be subsequently
repealed. The goal is to break with the past and create a modern Police Service
befitting our times and to better protect the members and serve the public.

This is another important opportunity for reform of the JCF, but the proposed new legislation cannot simply be the old legislation subjected to some level of tinkering. It needs to be reflective of a fundamentally different approach to policing. It is also necessary that there is adequate time allotted for review of and consultation on the draft legislation by members of the public. If this is to be legislation creating a modern Police Service, then it must undergo such a process of consultation with the people the new Police Service is to serve.

Over decades, we have come time and again to the point of  stating that reform of the police force is a necessary part of being able to deal with the high level of violent crime that has long plagued Jamaica. Perhaps one day there will actually be the political and societal will to undertake the necessary reform.

 


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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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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, 16/6/16)  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.