Public defender shut out of buggery law case
The Supreme Court has denied a request by the Public Defender, Arlene Harrison Henry, to be joined as an interested party in the suit brought by gay rights activist and attorney-at-law Maurice Tomlinson, who is challenging Jamaica’s buggery law.
Tomlinson filed a constitutional motion against the Attorney General last year seeking to have the anti-sodomy law nullified in relation to all cases of adult consensual sex which attracts convictions and prison terms.
He also claims that criminalising homosexuality amounts to a direct and blatant denial of equality before the law for him and other gay men.
The Public Defender said she wanted to join the case as her office was created for the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of citizens.
The Public Defender said she was of the view that the resolution of the issues raised in the claim and the decision on whether to grant the relief being sought will affect a class of citizens in Jamaica.
However, the Supreme Court has stated that the public defender was seeking to insert herself into the centre of a nationally divisive issue and could lose the confidence of many Jamaicans if allowed to join the case.
The court says it’s unclear which side of the matter the public defender would take and it says if she takes sides she runs the risk of losing the trust or completely alienating the other side.
Additionally, the court says if the public defender plans to be neutral in the proceedings, her contribution would be of little assistance.
Several other organisations and religious groups had also filed applications seeking to become interested parties in the suit and were granted leave to do so.