The more than 700 justices of the peace (JPs) in St. James have a key role to play in ensuring that the rights of citizens are upheld, as required by law, during the State of Public Emergency currently under way in the parish.
“Generally speaking, a justice of the peace is there to maintain and to keep the peace,” JP and veteran mediator, Courtney Hume, told JIS News.
“As it relates to the detainees, our responsibility is to make sure that all the rights that are afforded or accorded to them under the Constitution are upheld during the process of the investigation or the processes they go through when they are detained by the police, for whatever reasons,” he noted.
“Our responsibility is to not to rubber-stamp what the police are doing and not to interfere with what the police are doing, but to ensure that all the rights that we were taught, trained to look out for – the conditions under which (persons) are held, the rules that govern question and answering sessions – are abided by,” he further outlined.
Mr. Hume explained that once a person is detained, the law allows him/her to be held for a maximum of three days, unless there are other circumstances, such as the current State of Public Emergency, which would then warrant an adjustment by the authorities to extend the detention period.
He said that upon being detained, persons have a right to contact their family members to let them know that they are in the custody of the police, and to know what they are being charged for, if they are being charged, or when they will be released.
He noted that detainees have a right to food, clothing and basic human necessities, and in any case where these are not provided, the JPs have a responsibility to intervene and pursue all avenues necessary to ensure that those matters are dealt with in the shortest possible time.
Mr. Hume told JIS News that under the State of Public Emergency, the number of persons being detained will increase, so the process will require greater monitoring by JPs.
He assured, however, that “once we do our jobs, I don’t believe that we should have much problems”.
“As long as JPs fulfil their obligations to the State, citizens can rest assured that their relatives will come to no harm,” he added.
Mr. Hume is encouraging persons who need assistance for detained family members to contact their local JP.
“Find your JP; get to know them, and justices of the peace, make extra effort now to go out into your communities and be known in your communities for the work that you rightly signed up to do,” he implored.