Paul Foster upset with justice system
Paul Foster is a bitter man. At the same time, he is thankful and also concerned about his fellow Jamaicans based on his encounter with the justice system in Jamaica.
Foster is thankful mostly for the fact that he is reunited with his family, describing the time spent away from them and the stress of having a court case affecting his daily life, as terrible.
Foster was freed in the St Ann Circuit Court on May 20 this year on charges of illegal possession of firearm and occasioning actual bodily harm.
But the circumstances that led to his arrest and the chilling developments in the case has left him a changed man.
The chain of events started in August 2012 when a complaint was made against him that led to his arrest. He spent a month in jail before being granted bail, with conditions.
"The whole time I was on bail I was reporting at the Ocho Rios police station three days a week between 6am and 6pm," Foster told Family and Religion.
"My life at that time wasn't even mine, because since I had to be reporting to the station, I couldn't take up any overseas job offers; I couldn't leave to go anywhere.
"It affected my family especially because I'm very close to my children. I'm the bread winner for them and it affected even their school work and everything because they were there worrying and crying about their dad."
After three years and 10 months of stress and thousands of dollars in defence fees, Foster was finally freed in May.
But that was only part of the problem.
Foster said he was charged with hitting the complainant with a gun, yet no gun was ever found and there was no evidence that a gun was used to hit the complainant.
He is claiming that the police were tardy in their investigations and paid scant regard to what he was saying, which in the end proved to be the truth.
"I asked the police to investigate the case, go to the home and talk to other persons who were there. The detective seh him nuh haffi investigate nutten, somebody cum mek a report, him just tek the report and put the both a yuh before the judge," Foster said.
"For the first 18 months I went to RM court. For that year and six months they were saying, "Your honour the file is still incomplete because the medical is still outstanding, your honour the file is still incomplete because the medical is still outstanding."
The case was eventually transferred to Circuit Court, Foster stated. This proved to be his wake-up call.
Foster explained: "At first I didn't take the matter seriously, and this is what I think is bad for most Jamaicans. If you're lied on and get involved in the court system, most people, I think, don't want to do anything because they think 'mi innocent, them doh find mi innocent'. That's a big mistake because I was treated guilty the whole time, until I could prove my innocence, even though they could not prove that I'm guilty because they had no evidence. All they had was the young man's allegations."
Foster said after a witness came and corroborated his story, the judge set him free.
"The thing that I can't understand, they couldn't prove that I was guilty, it was up to me to prove that I'm innocent," Foster said with a puzzled look.
Asked if he was upset with the justice system, he answered in the affirmative.
"Yes, because I remember when my lawyer said that there is no evidence to prove that my client is guilty, the judge said to him, 'So what if I choose to believe the complainant?'. "
"So that tells me that it's not about evidence, it's about who the judge choose to believe. I wouldn't want Jamaicans to be tried in a court like that. If you going to find a person guilty or innocent, do it on the evidence, don't do it on who you feel like believing. That is what makes me so afraid, they couldn't prove I was guilty but still, it came down to the last hour and I had to prove that I was innocent.
"If people are going to be sent to prison based on who the judge choose to believe and not on the evidence, I believe we have a problem in the justice system. That alone is a sad indictment on the justice system."
Outside of that, Foster, was happy to be back with his family, being free at last.