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Attorney-at-law, Earl Witter, was today (Sept. 13) sworn in by the Governor General, His Excellency Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall, as Jamaica’s second Public Defender.
Professor Hall, in his remarks at the swearing-in ceremony held at King’s House, noted that Mr. Witter’s 33-year experience as a barrister, had prepared him well to assume the role as the people’s advocate.
“The Office of the Public Defender is an independent one in the provision of a fair and efficient justice system. It is my hope that all of us will fully support Mr. Witter as he works to develop new paradigms and further fortify the significance of the Public Defender in national life,” the Governor General stated.
Former Public Defender, Howard Hamilton, said he was pleased at the appointment of Mr. Witter. “It was in the criminal court where I was exposed to the two qualities that he possesses that assured me that he was the man for this job. The first was his total abhorrence of injustice and second was his passion for the plight of the poor,” he noted.
Mr. Hamilton called for a re-examination of the role of the Public Defender, especially as it related to going to court.
“The fact that the law (Public Defender Act) precludes the holder of office from going to court, I find that provision both unnecessary and uneconomical. In my report for 2004/2005, which will be tabled shortly, I have made a recommendation to Parliament that, that provision should be re-examined with a view to the holder being able to go to court in his discretion as is with the Director of Prosecution,” he pointed out.
He argued that confining the “holder of the office to bringing only constitutional issues before the court is hobbling and there are far more human rights violations occurring daily that the Office cannot take to court because the law does not permit. I have also recommended in that report that, that section should be amended to enable the Office to do more”.
Leader of the Opposition, Bruce Golding, also congratulated Mr. Witter, noting that, “he assumes an office of fundamental importance to the constitution of Jamaica, and an office of fundamental importance to the people of Jamaica. I trust that he sees the burden of his office, as a burden to protect the poor and vulnerable.”
The new Public Defender, in his reply, said he would strive to fulfill the expectations of the public, which were to protect and enforce their rights.
He added that in carrying out his work, he was expecting the support of the general public, those within his profession and all well-thinking persons, “because we are in this together”.