Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Legal fees and state trials

Published:Thursday | August 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM


It is happily noted that the Jamaican Bar Association, regarding the killing of Mario Deane, has added its support to the position of many others who believe that "where police officers breach the rights of individuals and such breach results in harm or damage suffered by that individual, the officers must be made to pay and not the taxpayers".

The practice at present, however, has not only been confined to taxpayers having to pay for the harm or damage, but, in addition, the taxpayer is called upon to pay for the legal fees for police officers charged.

The questions I wish to pose are not confined to the Mario Deane case, but indeed in respect to all such instances where agents of the state's legal fees have been paid for by the State. Isn't there a conflict of interest when the State prosecutes and, at the same trial, employs counsel to defend?

Who or what body is it that determines or approves the payment of legal fees for state defendants? Aren't Jamaican policemen first and foremost Jamaican citizens, and why are they singled out for privileged treatment before the law? Why shouldn't every Jamaican citizen charged with an offence enjoy identical privileges?

It certainly cannot be argued that, because at the time of the alleged criminal act, the policeman was acting as an government employee. If that is the guiding principle, no wonder policemen don't appear to be deterred from acting unlawfully while on duty, confident in the knowledge that their defence will be taken care of by the very State responsible for their prosecution.

There may very well be some sound legal reason for this practice, and so I beg one of our enlightened lawyers to please advise me of such a reason - at no cost to the Government/State, of course.