Tue | Jul 14, 2020

Cops challenge constitutionality of appeal hearing via Zoom

Published:Tuesday | June 2, 2020 | 4:16 PM
File photo

Jerome Reynolds, Assistant Editor-Online

Policemen Kevin Shirley and Mark Williams are challenging the constitutionality of their appeal being held via the Zoom online platform.

They are contending, among other things, that the constitution stipulates that court proceedings shall be held in public.

Their attorney Hugh Wildman today filed an application to take the matter to the Privy Council almost a week after the Appeal Court refused the cops' appeal against their October 2018 convictions and sentences on simple larceny charges.

The appeal was heard via Zoom.

But the cops claim that the hearing breached their constitutional right.

The island's courts had introduced the use of the virtual hearings via the Zoom platform as part of measures to reduce health risks associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The policemen are arguing that the Government did not declare a State of Emergency as part of its response to tackle COVID-19 and therefore the rights of Jamaicans have not been suspended.

They further contend that the government's use of the Disaster Risk Management Act 2015 does not override the constitution and the protections given to Jamaicans and the Judiciary cannot arrogate unto itself the powers to suspend their rights guaranteed under Section 16 (3) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

That provision stipulates that "all proceedings of every court and proceedings relating to the determination of the existence or the extent of a person's civil rights or obligations before any court or other authority, including the announcement of the decision of the court or authority, shall be held in public."

The applicants are arguing that the Court of Appeal is a creature of statute and does not have any inherent powers to abrogate their constitutionally protected rights to have their appeal determined by way of a public hearing.

They are of the view that their appeal held via the Zoom platform was illegal, null and void and of no effect.

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