Sat | May 25, 2019

Mark Wignall | Cowardice among our best lawyers?

Published:Thursday | October 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

CEO of Jamaica Teas, John Mahfood, like successful businessmen of his calibre, does have options, many more than we do. He could, I suppose, concentrate directly on his business, see the bottom line as everything with nothing else mattering, and live his life without the bother of being exposed to injustice and caring little about how it affected the 'common man'.

In the years that I have known him, his concerns for what ails many of the voiceless and powerless have been of paramount concern to him. This is not a PR piece for John Mahfood, but I know that many men in his 'socially unassailable' position would rather keep quiet than run their mouths on powerful institutions.

John Mahfood emailed me the following recently.

"An employee attends a party in St Mary and has an altercation with a female patron and is locked up and charged with assault. He attends court five times over a period of 15 months and the case is eventually dropped. Each occasion the case is put off because of non-attendance of either police or the person who made the charge. Each occasion involved a full day off from work and payment to attorney.

"Police attend our business place and take an employee into custody for questioning involving a six-year old case. He remains in custody without questioning for a week until I hire an attorney to represent him and he is eventually interviewed and released after another five days without being charged.

"Same employee requests police record a few years later in order to obtain a visa. Police report shows that he is wanted for questioning for an old case. I have to hire an attorney to clear up the matter which takes many months and significant attorney's fees, but eventually his record is cleaned up and he is given clean police report."




As John Mahfood states further in the email, "The employee eventually attends the US Embassy for interview in relation to a visa and despite providing clean police report (and having in the background a gross mess up in communication) the US Embassy personnel call local police to handcuff him and take him away for questioning.

"That happened because US Embassy personnel independently request their own police report, which shows that he is wanted for questioning. Again, he is incarcerated for over a week without being questioned. I have to hire an attorney to represent him and after another week he is questioned and released because police records are inaccurate.

"It takes another three months for police to issue a statement for the embassy to confirm that they have no interest in him."

A stark implication in what Mr Mahfood further states is if the Jamaican Bar Association is really interested in bringing justice to injustice it is its duty to stand up and be counted.

"My question is, why does the Jamaican Bar Association and the lawyers in Jamaica not say or do anything about this very sick situation? What are they afraid of? Are they concerned that the powerful judges will blacklist them and make things harder for them? Or is it that they just do not care enough to stand up for justice?"

Many of our best lawyers come from people who were, a few generations ago, on the sugar plantation. What are they now doing in trying to speak up loudly on behalf of those whose daily lives are made hell by the very system which now enriches those learned black lawyers?

Or, maybe concerted cowardice is the safer way out.