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Story Highlights

  • Attorney-at-Law, Arlene Harrison Henry, created history today (January 16), when she became the first woman in Jamaica to be appointed Public Defender.
  • A former head of the Jamaican Bar Association and Chairperson of the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights (IJCHR), Mrs. Harrison Henry is the country’s third public defender.
  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, in her address, described the appointment of Mrs. Harrison Henry as a “historic occasion for Jamaica.

Attorney-at-Law, Arlene Harrison Henry, created history today (January 16), when she became the first woman in Jamaica to be appointed Public Defender.

Mrs. Harrison Henry, who was sworn into office by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, during a ceremony at King’s House, succeeds Earl Witter, QC, who retired last April at the age of 70.

Public Law Specialist, Mr. Matondo Mukulu, acted in the post for eight months.

A former head of the Jamaican Bar Association and Chairperson of the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights (IJCHR), Mrs. Harrison Henry is the country’s third public defender.

Congratulating Mrs. Harrison Henry, the Governor-General said her appointment speaks to the confidence reposed in her ability to faithfully and effectively discharge the mandate of the public defender.

He also thanked Mr. Mukulu for the able way he led the office during his tenure as acting Public Defender and expressed gratitude to Mr. Witter for his eight years of dedicated service.

The Governor-General also praised the Public Services Commission (PSC), which oversaw the selection process, noting that the members carried out their duties with transparency, impartiality and fairness.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, in her address, described the appointment of Mrs. Harrison Henry as a “historic occasion for Jamaica.”

She noted that Mrs. Harrison Henry’s track record in human rights and the legal profession makes her an ideal selection for the post.

Mrs. Simpson Miller said the work of the Office of the Public Defender is “democracy in action,” further noting that the very existence and active operation of such an office is the hallmark of a responsible and accountable Government.

“The exercise of responsibility and accountability in Government is not a destination. It is a journey to which I am personally committed,” she said.

In her response, Mrs. Harrison Henry said her immediate concern will be the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry, which resumes in less than a month.

She said the hearing is the most important enquiry in Jamaica’s independent history.

“A section of our people was traumatised by the loss of loved ones, by what they saw, and damaged property. As the investigator, it is the public defender’s duty to provide the evidence to uncover the truth, the whole truth, and to secure justice for those whose rights were violated,” Mrs. Harrison Henry noted.

She further thanked her deputy, Mr. Mukulu and the staff of the Office of the Public Defender, for their outstanding service.

“Together we shall work as a team to build up the Office of the Public Defender, it being a premier State institution as contemplated by Parliament, and one our people deserve and can count on,” Mrs. Harrison Henry said.

The Office of the Public Defender was established in 2000, to investigate and seek redress on behalf of Jamaicans, whose constitutional rights have been violated.

 

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