JIS News

The Legal Aid Council (LAC) will be making an application at the Half-Way Tree Parish Court for 10 persons who have been incarcerated for extended periods, for their cases to be relisted.

This forms part of the LAC’s efforts at facilitating the processing of cases for persons in the system – particularly those who are mentally ill.

These are persons who were not convicted of an offence but had their matters on the court list, but because of varying issues they may not have been transferred to court in time, resulting in their names being removed.

Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, told JIS News that he is encouraging family members to step up and claim these persons.

“We’ll be publishing their names in a notice and inviting relatives to come forward and accept these persons upon release. We have to have somebody to receive them. These persons are mentally ill and incarcerated in the Department of Correctional Services facilities for extended periods,” he pointed out.

Mr. Faulkner said these persons, who were often charged at the parish court level, sometimes spend years in the system without their cases being addressed.

“These are not felonies. If you cut a man on his hand you go to the parish court, if you cut off the hand it goes to the Circuit Court, as it becomes a felony (felonious wounding). [Matters that involve] breaking down a door, for example, you go to the parish court, assault occasioning bodily harm, larceny as a servant or petty theft – and these people [who do crimes at this level], are languishing in jail,” he noted.

One of the most recent releases facilitated through the work of the LAC was the case of Abraham Lawrence, who was incarcerated for 21 years after being charged with malicious destruction of property.

Mr. Lawrence, who is believed to be 48 years old, from Huntley Castle in Pisgah, St. Elizabeth, was charged after the altercation in which he was involved resulted in Mr. Lawrence hitting a police vehicle.

On January 16, 1999, he was admitted into one of the island’s adult correction facilities and when his case was brought before the courts, he was taken from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre in Spanish Town.

Mr. Lawrence had an application filed by his attorney, Yushaine Morgan, who was appointed by the Legal Aid Council.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lawrence’s brother, Silvan Lawrence, was thankful for the work of the Counsel in getting his brother out on bail.

“My lawyer was the one who contacted the Legal Aid Council and they organised it. We had tried many ways to get him out. Systems like these I am grateful for, because they give poor people a chance. I am happy for the Legal Aid Council – really happy for it,” he said.

The matter returns to Court on Friday, July 10, at the St. Elizabeth Parish Court in Santa Cruz.

After 21 years of being incarcerated, Mr. Lawrence was released on bail, Friday, July 3, 2020 into the care of his family.

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