Tue | Jan 15, 2019

New public defender ready for Tivoli challenge

Published:Monday | February 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Several closed boxes of Tivoli reports and complaints were what greeted the new public defender, Arlene Harrison Henry, upon entering her office after being appointed three weeks ago.

"These are the Tivoli files that I came here and saw, and it appears as if they were all closed until I got here," she told The Gleaner, while pointing to the boxes that were locked in a room.

More than 70 people died in an operation by the security forces in 2010 to capture Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

The enquiry's sittings for the past year ended in December and will resume today.

"Since I got here, it has been a lot of work and it continues. I want to highlight that it is a mammoth undertaking, and I am determined to get the work done because people's lives have to be taken seriously," she declared.

Armed with a legal team which includes Lord Anthony Gifford, William Panton, Michael Lorne, and Gillian Burgess, Henry said her team would be ready to represent the Office of the Public Defender at the resumption of the commission of enquiry come Monday.

"There was no question in my mind that Miguel (Michael Lorne) would have stayed on the team, but the fact is that the commission, as it existed last year, had a lot of capacity issues from our standpoint. No one counsel can manage the work of that commission, and even though there were volunteers who came in, you can volunteer so much and no more. It takes a lot of time," she said.

a good team

"We have assembled a good legal team to further investigate what happened (in 2010). I believe I have the capabilities to get the work done, and that is what we have set out to do because the work has to be done. I believe that ... things are in place," Henry said.

The human rights advocate pointed out that there was limited time to prepare, however, she is confident her team would represent well.

"Monday morning will be a lot of applications, and the truth is, three weeks would not have been a long time in which to do an overall preparation, but I am not daunted. We have set up a budget, prepared contracts, prepared attorneys, and I am ready," she said.

"I have explained to the team that our performance as counsel is what Tivoli Gardens residents would be watching, and once we discharge our duties in a professional manner, more persons will come forward. In the previous enquiry, I don't think they were prepared enough, and we have to address that," Henry said.

giving emotional support

She also noted that part of her mandate as public defender would be to provide emotional support and psychological help to the people of Tivoli Gardens.