Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Editorial: A stench from Barnett Street

Published:Saturday | April 30, 2016 | 4:00 AM

It is not unreasonable, until it is proven otherwise, to conclude that the people who run, and work at, the Barnett Street Police Station in Montego Bay are at best egregiously careless, or at worst, criminally negligent. Either way, they need to be held accountable, including, this newspaper believes, in relation to the murder of Roosevelt 'Timmy' Thomas.

If popular sentiment is to be the basis of a judgment, Thomas was a nasty piece of work. He is the young man who was, this week, accused of murdering his three-year-old daughter, apparently in some warped supposition of revenge on the child's mother. Worse, it seems that it was not some act of wild passion, but a wilful, premeditated act of murder. Thomas, it is reported, signalled his intent before the act.

But these are all allegations. They are not facts tested in a court of law, where Thomas deserved a fair hearing, and if proven guilty, appropriately punished. That is the civilised way.

Moreover, adherence to the rule of law in the context of an efficient system of justice is a better deterrent to criminal impunity, from which Jamaica suffers, than any application of jungle justice, which appears to have been Roosevelt Thomas' fate. He was shot dead, his body riddled with bullets.

The Jamaican public deserves a better and more credible explanation than has so far been offered for the events leading up to his death.

 

SUCCESSFUL ESCAPE

 

The day after the body of Thomas' baby girl was found at a Montego Bay beach, he, the police confirmed, turned himself in. He was handcuffed with police-issue hand restraints and was being interrogated when he is reported to have bolted, jumped from a first-floor window, and, while still handcuffed, outsprinted pursuing officers through Montego Bay's crowded streets. Quite a feat for the clearly agile and resourceful Roosevelt Thomas.

The others may not have been dramatic, but this is not the first incident of escape or problematic occurrence involving people detained at the Barnett Street Police Station and lock-up. Indeed, the Barnett Street station was the one where Mario Deane, the young man detained for a marijuana cigarette, was beaten to death, and his jailers blamed other inmates until police officers were themselves accused of the act.

And there was the strange case, at the same police station, in September 2014, of Fahdean Ferguson. He was taken to the Barnett Street station for an identification parade and then disappeared. He said later that he had been told to go by officers.

Barnett Street, unfortunately, is not the only police station and lock-up in Montego Bay that seems incapable of holding its prisoners. Just last November, at the Freeport Police Station, six men, including one convicted of a double murder, broke out of their cells under the noses of their guards.

We hear little of the outcomes of the internal investigations that the constabulary's bosses announce at the time of these embarrassing episodes. No one knows if anyone is ever held to account, which should include the regional line managers and the top bosses themselves? For the whole thing reeks of incompetence - or worse.