Justice Ministry Moves to Reduce Police Excesses


The activities of the Ministry of Justice were highlighted by measures to reduce police excesses, in keeping with a commitment by Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, to protect and defend the rights of Jamaicans and to ensure that there is adequate redress, where citizens’ rights are violated.
Cabinet, in November, issued drafting instructions for the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the excessive use of force and instances of abuse by members of the security forces.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing, said that the establishment of this commission is part of the Government’s response to the national outcry over allegations of police excesses. The proposed independent commission will have powers similar to the Police Public Complaints Authority and more, and will operate in offices in all five police divisions islandwide.
The body, the Justice Minister noted, will have access to all reports regarding instances of alleged abuse by the security forces and will be able to examine weapons, photographs, and forensic data when carrying out their investigations. “It will be people of the highest integrity and also there will be a caveat that if they were former police officers, they must not have served for the last seven years,” she stated.
The Commission will be required to give frequent reports to the public about on-going investigations as well as submit quarterly reports to Parliament.
Senator Lightbourne told journalists that once the investigations are completed, the Director of Public Prosecutions will either prosecute the guilty party or internal disciplinary procures may be carried out, while mediation will be suggested for minor infractions.
In the meantime, Cabinet is to conduct a review of the public service staff orders, which allows the Attorney-General’s Department to charge fees for legal work and advice to government companies and statutory bodies.
Senator Lightbourne said that the public service staff orders allow the Department to charge for services carried out on behalf of government or statutory bodies, once this is in keeping with certain guidelines.
Some 26 new justices of the peace were sworn in for Portland at the Ken Wright Pier in Port Antonio on November 14.
Senator Lightbourne, who was speaking at the swearing in ceremony, said that JPs have long played a vital role in community activities, from certifying documents and witnessing affidavits to signing wills, and search warrants requested by the police. Noting that JPs are entrusted to take on responsibilities within the legal system in the communities in which they live and work, she said they are usually the first non-confrontational contact the average law abiding citizen has with an officer of the state. In September, four judges were sworn into the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall, at a ceremony held at King’s House. The judges are: Mahadev Dukharan and Gloria Smith, who will serve in the Court of Appeal; while Bertram Morrison and Sarah Thompson-James will serve as Puisne Judges in the Supreme Court. The appointments take effect on September 24.
The Governor-General, in his remarks, said the appointments come at a time when Jamaicans are demanding more from the justice system. He noted further that judges today are required to adjudicate on electoral matters, international disputes and human rights issues.
“The fact is there was a time when electoral matters were settled pretty much on the day of election. Now we find ourselves where the courts may have to make the final decisions about who is elected, not the electors or the voters,” the Governor-General pointed out.
Chief Justice Zaila McCalla, in her address, congratulated the judges and reminded them of the confidence that the Judicial Service Commission has placed in them by appointing them to their respective positions. Four additional judges were sworn into higher office by Governor-General later in the month. Christine Andrea McDonald, Master-in-Chambers at the Supreme Court, was appointed Puisne Judge with effect from September 1, 2007, while Martin Luther Gayle, Senior Resident Magistrate, was appointed as puisne judge with effect from September 17, 2007.
Marva Angela McDonald-Bishop, Resident magistrate, was also appointed as Puisne Judge with effect from September 17, 2007, and Audre Whelma Lindo, Registrar at the Supreme Court was appointed Master-in-Chambers to the Supreme Court, with effect from September 1, 2007. On October, Hon. Dennis Lalor; Hon. Headley Cunningham; Hon. Mr. Justice Ransford Langrin; and Hon. Shirley Miller were re-appointed as Privy Councillors. Ambassador the Hon. David Muirhead will serve as Senior Member of the Council, while Hon. Mr. Justice Paul Harrison was appointed to succeed Ambassador the Hon. Donald Mills.
The Governor-General, in October, announced the appointment of Senator Lightbourne as Queen’s Counsel.

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