Public defender says office open to vulnerable groups
The public defender, Arlene Harrison Henry, is concerned that issues affecting persons in vulnerable groups are not being reported to her office.
Harrison Henry expressed concern while addressing a group of civil society representatives during the 'Do You Dare' campaign launch on Tuesday at The Knutsford Court Hotel.
"Persons who live in vulnerable communities that we have spoken about do not utilise services offered at the Office of the Public Defender, but we are more than happy to investigate any complaints brought to us ... ," she said.
The term vulnerable groups refers to those living with HIV/AIDS who are being discriminated against by society. More than 30,000 Jamaicans are living with HIV/AIDS.
The public defender told The Gleaner that although she could not say for certain why these persons refused to make complaints to her office, the ones that did were more comfortable speaking to her directly.
"Persons who are vulnerable normally come directly to me, the deputy public defender, the special projects manager, or our director of investigations, and we treat those matters in the kind of delicate way that they ought to be treated" she said.
The public defender said that her office had the authority to investigate these complaints and make recommendations. Her office is also able to make a special report to Parliament if the relevant authority fails to take effective steps to act on the recommendations.
"As the public defender, we do have certain statutory powers such as the power to make recommendations, and so on, and all of us need to work more collaboratively to achieve that which we want to achieve" she stated.
Sasha-Gaye Kemble/Gleaner Intern