Edmond Campbell, News Coordinator
( L - R ) Lightbourne, Nicholson
The Jamaican Bar Association has welcomed a directive from Prime Minister Bruce Golding for Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Dorothy Lightbourne, to undertake an immediate review of the Evidence Act.
Opposition Spokesman on Justice, Senator A.J. Nicholson, said a review of the Evidence Act is appropriate at this time. However, the former Attorney General cautioned against repealing the act.
Prime Minister Golding's decision comes against the background of the widely publicised admission by Detective Constable Carey Lyn-Sue that he had fabricated evidence in a murder case.
As part of the review, Senator Lightbourne has been asked to advise the Prime Minister on measures that might be necessary to prevent the perversion of justice.
The Attorney General will submit her findings and recommendations to the Cabinet.
The Prime Minister, while commending the policeman's admission of wrongdoing, said his action raised grave questions about the integrity of criminal proceedings.
Review of lyn-sue's cases
He said it could also place the judicial process in disrepute unless the possibility of its occurrence is eliminated.
Commissioner of Police Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin ordered that the detective be suspended from duty, condemning his previous action when he lied to the court.
The commissioner has also instructed that a review be done of all cases handled by the detective constable.
John Leiba, president of the Jamaican Bar Association and attorney-at-law, told The Gleaner interview yesterday that the association welcomed the review of the Evidence Act, noting that the legislation must serve and not prejudice individual's rights.
He said the legislation was passed because of the reluctance of persons to come forward and give evidence.
"It is always going to be a balance between a response to the problem of crime and being fair to the individual," Mr. Leiba said.
He also commended Detective Constable Lyn-Sue for telling the truth.
Use extreme caution
Attorney-at-law John Leiba - Rudolph Brown/Chief Photographer
"I think that should be encouraged. We need to find a way, if there are other persons who might be implicated as a result of bad evidence, they should be encouraged to come forward and own up to it," he said.
Commenting on plans to review the Evidence Act, Senator Nicholson said: "We must be extremely careful accused persons cannot be free to hold the view that they may get rid of witnesses to defeat the ends of justice."
He added: "If further safeguards are required to be put in place to buttress the implementation of the law, that must not be done in such a way as to stifle the intention of the provisions of the law."
Human rights group, Jamaicans For Justice, also supported the move to review the Evidence Act, noting that this would help to restore confidence in the justice system.
From the Evidence Act
Section 31 D of the Evidence Amendment Act says a statement made by a person in a document shall be admissible in criminal proceedings as evidence of any fact of which direct oral evidence by him would be admissible if it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that such a person:
a) Is dead
b) Is unfit, by reason of his bodily or mental condition, to attend as a witness
c) Is outside of Jamaica and it is not reasonably practicable to secure his attendance
d) Cannot be found after all reasonable steps have been taken to find him; or
e) Is kept away from the proceedings by threats of bodily harm and no reasonable steps can be taken to protect the person.