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Rural Express: Judge Oswald Burchenson A true patriot honoured

Published:Saturday | December 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Burchenson being presented a gift from the Manchester Bar Association by Velma Hylton, QC.-photos by Tamara Bailey
Judge Burchenson and wife Valerie.
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Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer

Mandeville, Manchester:Several well-wishers, members of the judiciary, the legal fraternity and local government congregated at the Golf View Hotel recently to celebrate the legacy and acknowledge the sterling contribution of a man described as a true patriot, His Honour Mr Oswald Erasmus Burchenson, OD.

A native of Dallas Castle in St Andrew, Judge Burchenson, who was dispatched to Manchester in 1998, gave 17 years of unwavering service to the parish, implementing policies, championing the cause of philanthropy, and establishing and maintaining a harmonious environment through mediation as the resident magistrate.

With his impact on the community evidenced by names such as 'Mr Berchess', 'Mr Burchie', 'Mr Burcheson', and his favourite, 'Mr B', according to Jamaican Bar Association member Norman Godfrey, his efforts to get assistance for his many projects never waned.

"As it regards counsel appearing before him, the usual approach would be, 'Counsel, please don't leave until you speak to me in chambers'. When one gets into chambers, the first question would be, "So how are things, man". Followed by, "I hear things not so bad with you," and at this point, you know there is no escape route for you and without missing a beat, he commits you to a contribution for some project he is involved with for this or that group of youngsters."

Custos of Mandeville Sally Porteous said Judge Burchenson will never be forgotten for his many sentences to 'church attendance'. Unlike many judges, several persons charged for minor offences were made to go to church instead of prison.

"I cannot forget the day a man, who was charged for hitting his mother, came before the court and Mr Burchenson told him to go in the hallway and state loudly, 'I must honour my mother and my father ... it was something else'," expressed present RM D. Alleyne, as she, along with those present, failed to contain their laughter.

Journey

From humble beginnings, Burchenson fought hard to climb the ladder of success. His earliest accomplishment began when he received three Jamaica Local Examination passes after leaving Dallas Castle Elementary and later moved on to the West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University).

Although his stay at West Indies College only lasted three months, he was not deterred by this obstacle, and soon found employment as a teacher at the Friendship All-Age School in St Andrew. This job merely whetted his appetite for learning. He joined the Jamaica Constabulary Force in 1962 and was assigned to the fingerprint identification department.

Due to excellent work ethic, he went to study fingerprinting and forensic photography at the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police Academy in 1972. With the need for further education, Burchenson, in 1980, enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and obtained a certificate in management studies. He later returned to UWI and pursued a bachelor of laws, subsequently obtaining a certificate of legal education at the Norman Manley Law School.

He rose through the ranks of the JCF and became detective inspector of police and was seconded to the attorney general's department in 1986. A few years later, he became assistant attorney general for Jamaica.

His work in the legal profession was recognised by his superiors and peers at the private bar and the bench and was appointed a resident magistrate in 1993. The retired judge was first sent to serve the parish of St Ann. He also served in the family court in the juvenile circuit for the parishes of Manchester, St Elizabeth, and Clarendon. Restorative justice became his mantra. He saw the need, where possible, for reconciliation between accused and complainant and reintegration of offenders into society. Where it was appropriate, community service for minor offences was the order of the day in his court.

Although a full-time RM, he spent many hours giving back to his nation through various organisations such as the Jamaica Red Cross, the Police Credit Union and Dallas Castle Community group. He formed the Future Hopes Youth Band in Dallas Castle and quietly assisted many children to attain their dreams of getting an education and has assisted them in obtaining tertiary education. To this day, he provides meals for the poor and needy every weekend.

"For some reason, I feel a little emotional ... I can only thank those who have spoken of me in those kind and meaningful words. I know it has touched my heart and the heart of my family," said Burchenson.

Having resided at the Golf View Hotel during the weekdays and travelling to Dallas on weekends for 17 years, the husband to Valerie Burchenson and father of six is happy to have made such an impact and is finally leaving for home.

rural@gleanerjm.com