Sat | Sep 19, 2020

Tribunal to hear Tommy Lee case 3 times next week

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2020 | 12:00 AMHopeton Bucknor and Christopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Tommy Lee Sparta has been in police custody since June.

WESTERN BUREAU:

A tribunal sitting to determine whether dancehall entertainer Tommy Lee Sparta should be released from police custody has been rescheduled for three hearing dates next week.

The artiste, whose real name is Leroy Russell, had his hearing set for August 10, 13 and 14 following Tuesday’s sitting, which was held via Zoom conferencing at the Freeport Police Station in Montego Bay.

He has been held under St James’ ongoing state of public emergency (SOE) since June.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Tommy Lee’s attorney Ernest Smith sought legal deliberations with government representatives. Both sides will be holding subsequent talks to determine if the entertainer should be released.

Tommy Lee was taken into custody as a person of interest on July 7. Law-enforcement sources had previously stated that the police wanted to question him regarding an upsurge of violence in his hometown of Flankers, St James.

POTENTIAL LAWSUIT

In the meantime, prior to Tuesday’s tribunal, two western Jamaica-based attorneys cautioned that Tommy Lee could potentially sue the authorities for false imprisonment and harassment if allegations that he has been systematically targeted by the police over the past four years prove to be true.

The artiste was previously listed as a person of interest by the police in the Kingston Eastern Division in 2016 in relation to a shooting incident. Then in 2017, the Freeport Police Station asked the deejay to turn himself in for questioning in relation to a shooting in Flankers during Christmas time.

Attorney-at-law Lambert Johnson, president of the Cornwall Bar Association, told The Gleaner that being repeatedly listed as a person of interest could lead to the perception that the affected person is being deliberately targeted.

“If approximately every year the police pick you up, have you in custody, and declare you a person of interest, and then you are released and not charged, after a while it begins to feel like victimisation. After a while, it will seem like you are being targeted,” said Johnson.

Senior attorney Don Foote, in commenting on Tommy Lee’s options, criticised the police’s alleged practice of releasing detainees and then taking them back into custody under SOEs.

“Mr Tommy Lee can always sue for false imprisonment. That is how the law works, because one is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but you [the police] just take innocent persons into custody, lock them up, and then release them,” said Foote.