Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Letter of the Day | Safeguard public from detention abuses

Published:Tuesday | February 14, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) understands the need for the Government of Jamaica to take effective measures to combat the scourge of crime and violence. The Government must not simply 'do something'; it must do the right thing.

We note the recently announced concept of preventative detention, which the Attorney General has publicly opined is a lawful measure. JFJ is of the view that the concept and principles behind preventative detention may not be clearly understood by the public or all police officers. While announcing it in the domestic violence context, the Government has made clear that it will generally apply to other crimes. For clarity, we ask that the Government set out in writing for the public exactly what the concept of preventative detention entails, how it is expected to work on the ground, and the legal underpinnings for the same.

We also ask that any guidelines that have been issued to the police in relation to how preventative detention may be utilised to deprive persons of their liberty be released to the public without delay.

We endorse the attorney general's reminder to the police of their awesome powers and the need to exercise such power in keeping with the law. This comes in a context in which the police already breach existing restrictions on detention, raising concerns about the safeguards that will accompany this new, enhanced measure.

Currently, people are frequently detained without charge, mostly in poor communities, not told the reasons for their detention, and are detained for unlawfully excessive periods - leading to serious abuse.


Legacy of abuse


With the rollout of this enhanced detention measure, existing safeguards must be strengthened, not diminished, to avoid exacerbating this legacy of abuse.

We ask the Government to institute a requirement for the issuance of written notices of detention for all police arrests and detentions. The notice would include the reason(s) for arrest/detention, and the particulars and circumstances of the detention. This would provide a record for detainees in cases of dispute, and a procedural safeguard against abuse.



Jamaicans for Justice