Fri | Jan 15, 2021

Chuck: No need for court photo ban

Published:Wednesday | September 25, 2019 | 12:14 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has said that there is no longer a need for the highly controversial section of the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act which prohibits the photographing or sketching of prisoners in the court or within its confines.

However, he pointed out that it is not entirely up to him whether the law is amended.

“Speaking as a lawyer, I see no need for it. Though you will appreciate that persons who are accused are not necessarily guilty, and when the pictures are taken of them and they are exposed, persons oftentimes believe that they are guilty, and that is what, I suspect, the law was trying to avoid,” he told The Gleaner. “But in any event, people know who are accused … . It’s public knowledge, so it is something for consideration, but it’s not totally in my remit.”

The justice minister was responding to calls from the media community for a repeal of the section of the legislation following the passing of the Law Reform (Amendment of Penalties) Act, which increased the fine associated with the offence from $20 to $1 million and the jail time from one month to a year in prison.

“The position is that we increased the fines without removing most of the redundant laws. The question of whether pictures can be taken in the precincts of the court is really not a matter for the minister of justice. It’s something that I need to discuss with the chief justice and with the judges, if that is appropriate.

“It seems to me, however, that there is a possibility that most countries now recognise that accused persons’ pictures are exposed anyway, and in these circumstances, I suspect the judges won’t have any difficulty in saying that that law can be changed,” he said before reiterating, “but it’s not totally up to me.”

The justice minister also had a charge for the media, calling for the same level of exposure when a person has been acquitted, a matter he said he has brought before the Independent Commission of Investigations, where the reputation of police officers is concerned.

“It is easy to accuse, but if the person is able to repudiate the charges, oftentimes people don’t know. You can’t ask an accused to put out a full-page ad to say, I have been acquitted,” he said.

“That is something I have brought up with INDECOM because 19 out of 20 complaints made against police officers are actually investigated, and no further action is taken. One in 20 of the matters investigated by INDECOM of complaints against police officers, recommendation is made for disciplinary action, and I’ve said to INDECOM, when the complaint turns out to be misguided, it is something that they should expose in the media, especially if it came out in the media that the person, an officer, had been suspended or a complaint has been made against the officer,” Chuck said.