Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, on Tuesday (July 21), opened the debate on a Motion calling for legislative changes to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act, to strengthen the investigative capabilities of the organisation.
Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr. Chuck said INDECOM was established to take over the role of the Police Public Complaints Authority (PPCA) and to respond speedily to the cry for justice, sustained public protest and demonstrations alleging security force excesses.
He noted that even though there is tension and friction between members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and INDECOM, “no one can deny that INDECOM has been vigilant and thorough in its investigations of alleged police misconduct and excesses”.
Mr. Chuck stated that INDECOM has contributed positively to the reduction of extra judicial killings by the security forces.
“From its inception, INDECOM operated on the premise that it had powers to arrest, charge and prosecute members of the security forces, until in 2013 when the Jamaica Police Federation challenged this practice in the Full Court, at which point INDECOM desisted from so charging and prosecuting,” he noted.
“In its judgement, the Full Court ruled that INDECOM did have the power to arrest, charge and prosecute members of the security forces.
The Police Federation appealed the Full Court’s ruling and in 2018 the Court of Appeal ruled that INDECOM did not have the power to arrest, charge and prosecute members of the security forces. The Privy Council confirmed this ruling in May 2020,” Mr. Chuck added.
In 2015, a Joint Select Committee of Parliament was established to review the INDECOM Act and its operations. Among other things, the Committee recommended, consistent with the ruling of the Full Court, that the INDECOM Act be amended to explicitly give INDECOM prosecutorial powers.
Steps were taken to amend the Act; however, with the further court challenges, this was placed on hold pending the outcome of the hearings.
Mr. Chuck pointed out that when INDECOM pursued arresting, charging, and prosecuting of the members of the security forces, it did so in good faith as can be demonstrated when it desisted in 2013 upon the institution of proceedings by the Police Federation.
“Upon the judgement of the Full Court in 2014, INDECOM resumed exercising prosecutorial powers but desisted again when the Court of Appeal ruled in 2018 that they did not have those powers. Accordingly, it is intended to bring to Parliament shortly, a validation Bill to validate and indemnify the actions taken by INDECOM during those periods,” he pointed out.
The Minister said the Government remains committed to strengthening the investigative powers and capabilities of INDECOM.
As such, Mr. Chuck said the Parliament is being asked to note and support the Joint Select Committee Report and adopt the remaining recommendations in the Report.
In strengthening the investigative powers and capabilities of INDECOM, it is also proposed to, among other things: expand the functions of INDECOM to facilitate the sharing of information with other parties, such as government agencies, Special coroners, commissions of inquiries and the security forces.
“This amendment is necessary, as the Privy Council in its decisions of May 2020 ruled that INDECOM could not share material gathered in its investigations with any other party. Section 28 will, therefore, be amended to allow INDECOM to share appropriate information,” Mr. Chuck noted.
Section 31 of the Act will be amended to allow for the Commission to initiate or continue any investigation, notwithstanding any criminal proceedings relating to the subject matter of the investigation.
In addition, Section 28 of the Act will be amended to expressly compel members of the security forces or specified officials to serve notices.
Also, Section 21 of the Act will be amended to expand the provision for delegation, to allow the Commission to delegate any person the performance of his functions, excluding a member of the security forces or specified official and that such delegation shall not preclude the performance of that function of the Commission.
“The Privy Council decision noted that INDECOM is a quasi-corporation. It is intended to amend the Act in support of the recommendation included in the report of the Joint Select Committee to give INDECOM a body corporate status,” Mr. Chuck said.
He added that these recommendations, plus others in the Report, will be introduced in a Bill to amend the INDECOM Act, and drafting instructions will accordingly be provided to OPC at the close of the debate and after further consideration by Cabinet.
“I hope that the proposed amended Bill will be tabled in Parliament during this fiscal year. I am confident that the strengthening of INDECOM’s investigative powers will ensure that INDECOM will become more efficient and effective in performing its mandate,” Mr. Chuck said.
Debate on the Motion was suspended and will continue at the next sitting of the House of Representatives on July 28.