Tue | Jul 7, 2020

Advocating for release of other inmates

Published:Friday | June 26, 2020 | 12:08 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

THE RELEASE of George Williams is a step in the right direction for Jamaica’s justice system. No one, regardless of their mental state, should be in prison for 50 years without a trial. We, like the director of public prosecutions (DPP), feel for the family of the victims affected by the crime which Williams is alleged to have committed, but we do not share her views in presuming Williams’ guilt.

The DPP, in her public statements, appears to be convinced that Williams is guilty; however, in 50 years her office was unable to bring sufficient evidence to convict him. The fact that Williams had to wait for 50 years to have his day in court is a gross miscarriage of justice and one that the DPP should take responsibility for. If the DPP knew there was insufficient evidence against Williams, why did it take her office 50 years to enter a nolle prosequi in the case?

Given the principle that an accused person is presumed innocent before proven guilty, it is very concerning that the stance of the DPP is one that continues to presume guilt because of the fact that Williams has been deemed mentally ill. It is perhaps this view that has resulted in so many cases of persons deemed unfit to plead languishing behind bars. This is part of the pernicious view of mental illness that has resulted in how our justice system has treated with these individuals, and it is for this reason that we will be assisting Mr Williams to bring a constitutional case against the Government for the unreasonable length of time for which he had to await trial.

Stand Up for Jamaica will continue to advocate on the additional cases of individuals who have been deemed unfit to plead, and we continue to await the full list of these cases from the chief justice. We also use this medium to call on Chief Justice Brian Sykes to publicly release the names of the persons who will make up the Mental Health Task Force and also the terms of reference and work plan for the task force.

George Williams’ case proves that justice can be done when the courts are guided by human rights principles. The speedy disposal of his case indicates that the justice system can function effectively if it is provided with strong, compassionate leadership.

CARLA GULLOTTA

Executive Director

Stand Up for Jamaica