JIS News

One of the critical components of the Office of the Public Defender is the Investigation Department.
This unit is responsible for investigating all complaints of mal-administration or injustice suffered by citizens at the hands of a Government institution.
In turn, the Office is empowered to bring an action against the Government entity for redress, even after the time has passed in which a person can bring an action against the Government.
Injustice or mal-administration include outstanding payments from an organization, assistance with burial, delay in pension payments, delay in granting road licences, processing of titles, outstanding payments from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, delay in birth and death registration and the transfer of land, and a number of other complaints which fall under these categories.
Director of Investigation, Madeline Webster, tells JIS News that most of the complaints are reported through the mail. However, there are persons who visit the office and they are required to complete a questionnaire after which they are interviewed by Complaint Officers.
“Everything must be in writing, although the office encourages telephone calls, and the elderly and the sick are catered to,” she explains. The cases are many and varied and there are four investigators.
Outlining the procedure, Miss Webster says that all complaints are channeled to the Registry, where they are filed. The Public Defender then makes a notation on them, after which the Director of Investigation double checks the file for jurisdiction and an investigator is then assigned to it.
The investigator goes out into the field and conducts interviews with the complainant and collects relevant documentation to assist in the preparation of the case.
“The investigators go into any government office to examine all records or to take them away,” she notes. However, she points out that the Office does not have jurisdiction over anything related to national security.
When the investigator completes his/her investigation, the case goes back to the Director’s office where it is vetted and a report submitted to the Public Defender. The complainant then receives a letter from the Office outlining the status of the case and the action to be taken.
Matters before the Courts are not handled by the Office and the jurisdiction of the Office does not extend to the private sector, as those complaints would be referred to the relevant authority.
The Office has completed at least 70 per cent of the cases presented to it and has received several letters of commendation from satisfied clients.
The Public Defender is appointed by Parliament on the recommendation of the Governor-General, after nominations by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.
The current holder of the office is Howard Hamilton, Q.C., who was appointed in November 1998.

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