Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Going too far? - Court of Appeal ruling raises concerns that parish judges crossing the line

Published:Monday | June 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

A ruling by the nation's highest court that overstaying in Jamaica is not among the list of offences for which an individual can be deported has triggered concerns that parish court judges have, for years, been overstepping their authority.

The landmark decision was handed down in the Court of Appeal last Thursday in the case of a United States citizen, Kwane Abayomi, who pleaded guilty in July 2015 to overstaying his time in the island.

In addition to a $5,000 fine, parish judge Judith Pusey also signed a recommendation order to the justice minister that Abayomi be deported. At the time, it was alleged that the American was wanted in the US for offences that were not included in Jamaica's extradition laws.

However, the Court of Appeal, in its decision, ordered that the recommendation order for Abayomi's deportation be set aside, siding with his attorney, Able-don Foote, that overstaying in Jamaica, though a breach of the Aliens Act, is not an offence for which a parish judge has the authority to recommend deportation.

Abayomi has already been deported, but according to Foote, the decision of the Appeal Court addresses a more fundamental issue.

"A parish judge may only recommend deportation for specified scheduled offences pursuant to the Aliens Act," Foote told The Gleaner, summarising his legal arguments before the Appeal Court.

He also said that he believed that the method used to turn his client over to the American authorities was an end run around the country's extradition legislation. "They couldn't extradite him, so they locked him up for overstaying. Then, as it turned out, they send the man away wrongfully," Foote asserted.

According to reports at the time, Abayomi was wanted in the US state of Virginia for allegedly eluding the police and for possession of a concealed weapon. It is believed that he came to Jamaica in 2012 while on bail.

The ruling was also embraced by another attorney who charged that for years, parish court judges, aided by the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), have been "routinely" making recommendation orders for individuals to be deported for the offence of overstaying their time in the island.

"PICA representatives would come to the parish courts with a standard form, which has deportation recommendations, and the judge would sign the form. That form would indicate that the judge's order recommends that the persons be deported, and then they would act on it," the attorney revealed.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com