Faulkner: Police must tell citizens about right to legal representation
Hugh Faulkner, executive director of the Legal Aid Council, is urging police officers not to delegate the role of an attorney to a justice of the peace (JP) when dealing with detained citizens.
He explained that the duty counsel framework provides free legal services for question-and-answer sessions, identification parades and a defendant's first court appearance, but there are citizens who are unaware of the provisions.
"There are some officers who would rather expose the suspect to the assistance of justices of the peace - who have a legitimate role to play - but a JP cannot give legal advice; they can give information. So the person would have been deprived of legal advice," Faulkner told The Gleaner in a recent interview.
He added: "The lawyer would indicate to the client that he or she has a right not to say anything, that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, the law protects the citizen from self-incrimination."
Faulkner outlined that the police have a duty to inform citizens that they are entitled to an attorney and provide them with the duty counsel list. More than 200 attorneys are available for duty counsel assignments through the Legal Aid Council.
Faulkner said steps are being made to ramp up sensitisation with police officers and JPs in association with the Citizen Security and Justice Programme to help Jamaicans to navigate the criminal justice system.
The executive director pointed out that guidelines have been crafted and would be placed in strategic spots at police stations islandwide.