Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Holness wants closer look at INDECOM before decision on powers of arrest

Published:Monday | March 26, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaks with The Gleaner during a one-on-one interview at Jamaica House last Wednesday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says he is not ready at this time to make a pronouncement on whether the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) should be accorded the powers to arrest and prosecute members of the security forces who violate the law.

The Appeal Court on March 16 ruled that INDECOM did not have the power to arrest and prosecute cops. INDECOM had argued strongly that under Section 20 of the act, it had such powers. However, the judgment said, based on Section 20 of the act, that INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams and his investigators only had power to investigate and make recommendations.

In the wake of the court decision, Holness told The Gleaner that a parliamentary committee would be set up to review the INDECOM law, and as such, he did not want to pre-empt any decision by that committee.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said the matter would be discussed at Cabinet today.

A joint select committee had reviewed the INDECOM Act and submitted its report to Parliament in 2015. However, to date, the report has not been debated.

"From my perspective, I need to take a closer look at the operations of INDECOM before I make a public pronouncement as to what my views are on the matter," the prime minister told The Gleaner in an interview at Jamaica House last week.

Holness said that the Parliament has to examine the situation carefully to see how it can "empower INDECOM legitimately in law, but at the same time, ensure that the person in whom the power is vested exercises those powers with good judgement".

The prime minister indicated that there were clashes of opinion among lawmakers in Parliament in relation to the powers that should be given to the oversight body.

"My sense of the position i?n the Parliament is that there is a split. There are some MPs who would want to give the powers of prosecution and arrest, literally, to INDECOM, and there are others who feel that it is not necessary."

Holness attributed the reduction in police killings over the years to the introduction of INDECOM, noting that it has been a very effective public institution. However, the prime minister questioned whether the oversight body had gone overboard in carrying out its duties. He said that some people might interpret the court ruling as saying that INDECOM had gone overboard.