Police abusing the Bail Act, says St James JP
Adrian Frater, News Editor
The death of Mario Deane, who succumbed to injuries sustained in a brutal beating while in the custody of the Barnett Street police, in Montego Bay, has prompted one St James justice of the peace (JP) to break ranks and lash out against what he says is an abuse of the Bail Act by local police.
Health professional Lennox Wallace, a JP with considerable experience, told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday that, out of concern over the police's abuse of the Bail Act, he wrote to St James Custos Ewen Corrodus just over two weeks ago, requesting a meeting with him to discuss the situation.
"The custos neither acknowledged nor responded to my letter, and I believe had he reacted and something was done to address the situation, Mario Deane's life might have been spared," said Wallace.
"As a justice of the peace, who is sworn to serve the people of Jamaica, I feel that we are letting ourselves down when we stand by and allow the police to abuse the rights of those they are employed to serve," he added.
In his letter dated July 28, 2014, which he shared with The Sunday Gleaner, Wallace told Corrodus that he wanted to meet with him at the earliest time possible to discuss the abuses of the Bail Act he had been seeing with a view of having him bring the matter to the attention of the police hierarchy.
"I would like to meet with you at the earliest possible time or at your convenience, to discuss the challenges that community members and even attorneys face on a daily basis with the police, and the constant abuse of the Bail Act by them," the letter read.
Wallace also told the custos that JPs were not exercising certain powers they have under the law and that failure was allowing the police to abuse the Bail Act with impunity.
"There are several duties in this act that are not currently being exercised by JPs, which could greatly assist citizens, especially those that aren't aware of their rights," wrote Wallace. "I do believe that this intervention could also mean engaging the senior superintendent of police, the Bar Association (Western) and, by extension, the courts, in highlighting the glaring abuse of this act by the police."
Wallace said Section 22 of the Bail Act states that, "Where a person who is arrested or detained within 24 hours after such arrest or detention, he shall be brought forthwith before a resident magistrate or a justice of the peace who shall order that the person be released or make such other order as the resident magistrate or the justice of the peace thinks fit".
Said Wallace: "I noticed almost on a daily basis where the police go into inner-city communities and round up groups of young men ... where they choose to detain them at their leisure without due consideration of the provisions of the act," said Wallace. "This is wrong and must stop or we will be having more situations like what happen to Mario Deane."
While efforts of The Sunday Gleaner to contact Corrodus via telephone proved unsuccessful, Wallace said that since Deane's death, he has finally got an opportunity to speak with the custos.
"After Mario Deane's death, I made it known to some of my JP colleagues that I was saddened by the custos' failure to respond to my letter and made it clear that I intended to go public with my concerns," said Wallace. "I have since had a meeting with the custos but the meeting came too late to address the situation that caused Mario Deane's death."
According to Deane's friend, Castel McKenzie, who went to bail him at the Barnett Street Police Station some three hours after he was arrested for possessing a ganja spliff last Sunday morning, a policewoman who was processing the bail documents aborted the process and announced that she would be keeping him for an additional two hours because she took objection to a comment he allegedly made.
Two hours after the bail process was aborted, Deane was admitted to the Cornwall Regional Hospital in an unconscious state, suffering from massive head injuries. He died three days later without regaining consciousness.
"Had Mario Deane's bail right not been abused, he would have been alive today," said Wallace. "This situation has saddened me greatly and I have to speak out because, unless the system is changed, it might be Mario Deane today but it could be me or you tomorrow."
The Independent Commission of Investigations has indicated that it is probing the Deane case.