Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Letter of the Day | PM as judge, jury - and executioner?

Published:Tuesday | November 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The recently concluded annual conference of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) can best be described as incongruous in terms of those who had the occasion to address its audience. Heading the list was our dear prime minister, Andrew Michael Holness, who, while proclaiming that he was the biggest defender of human rights, sought to repeat the words of his national security minister that those who commit murder and are arrested and charged should not get bail.

By way of reminder to all who subscribe to this view, it should be noted that the determination as to whether one has committed a murder ultimately rests with a jury or a judge alone, as the option now is. Those arrested and charged are in law presumed innocent and, therefore, one should not start from the premise that such persons who are arrested and charged have committed an offence.

 

MISREPRESENTING THE FACTS

 

Our dear prime minister also went on to state that those charged for gun offences should not be entitled to bail unless they revealed "where they got the guns from". Implicit in this is a predetermined conclusion that in the first instance those charged in such circumstances were in actual possession of illegal firearms. It rules out the possibility, which sadly is sometimes the case, that police officers, in their testimony, misrepresent what the facts are and in so doing manufacture evidence against innocent persons.

Then again, alas, our dear prime minister has cautioned us as Jamaicans that the police cannot take any more criticism at this time.

Our former prime minister, Edward Seaga, at the same conference, emphasised in his address the need for us to place a premium on education. Within this context, critical thinking and analysis are required towards treating the real ills of our justice system. In plain terms, what is required is for our prime minister to allocate more financial resources towards the justice and national security portfolios.

 

THREAT TO JUDICIARY

 

The declaration that legislation is coming to prevent those charged with murder and serious gun offences from getting bail represents a grave threat to the independence of our judiciary. In any healthy democracy, it is imperative that the independence of our judiciary be jealously guarded vis a vis our two other arms of government: the legislature and the executive.

The unprecedented large number of lawyers that sit in Gordon House must be reminded that life for them is once a politician and twice a lawyer.

PETER CHAMPAGNIE

Attorney-at-Law

peter.champagnie@gmail.com