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Attorney General and Justice Minister, Senator A. J. Nicholson, has said that while the state has accepted responsibility for the death of Michael Gayle, the decision as to whether a sufficient case existed for prosecution rested with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), which was an office independent of the government.
“The independence must be respected, and it would be exceedingly bad form, if not unconstitutional, for the Executive to embark upon any second-guessing of decisions of the DPP,” the Attorney General told journalists at a press briefing held at the Ministry this morning (Nov. 17).
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in its recent ruling on the 1999 death of Mr. Gayle at the hands of the security force, has recommended that the government open a new investigation into the death and the human rights violations, and to identify, prosecute and punish all the persons responsible. The body also called on the government to publicly apologise to and compensate Mr. Gayle’s family.
According to Senator Nicholson, the government had already acted on some of the recommendations of the IACHR, having already accepted liability for Mr. Gayle’s death, in addition to issuing a public apology in the media and paying $2,886,265 in compensation to the family.
He pointed out, that starting with this acceptance of responsibility, the government has sought to ensure justice for Mr. Gayle’s loved ones. “We have sought to do so in keeping with the requirements of Jamaican law and, as far as possible, without publicizing our efforts to reduce the effects of this awful tragedy,” he told journalists, adding that the government had acknowledged that Mr. Gayle died in circumstances that were “deeply regrettable”.
“As Minister of Justice, and moreso, as a citizen of Jamaica, I wish to reiterate today that it cannot be right, indeed, it is unquestionably wrong, for agents of the state to take the life of anyone in Jamaica without justifiable cause,” Senator Nicholson stated.
In terms of compensation, Senator Nicholson pointed out that representatives of the Attorney General’s office have worked with representatives of Mr. Gayle’s mother, Jenny Cameron, following which a settlement was made by the government. “Miss Cameron was represented by counsel, and a settlement figure was agreed, which took into account the Jamaican court’s approach in wrongful death cases and all the circumstances of the case,” he said.
To date, he said the family has received all the money four months from the date the settlement was entered by the court. “To be sure, no amount of money can provide consolation to Miss Cameron in this time of continuing grief and tragedy. At the same time, I would not wish members of the public to be left with the impression that compensation has not been paid for the wrongful death of Mr. Gayle, in keeping with Jamaican law,” he said.
“I acknowledge that no amount of money will remove the grief, but I fear that the Commission has not fully grasped the nature of the Jamaican constitutional arrangements,” he said.