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Lock-up audit - Minister orders islandwide review of person in police custody

Published:Thursday | August 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Donovan Walker
Peter Bunting

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

The brutal beating death of Mario Deane has triggered a nationwide audit of all persons now in police lock-ups.

National Security Minister Peter Bunting said the audit report, which he expects to be on his desk by Monday, would be used to determine how many persons are in the custody of the police for minor offences.

"If it's only a handful of cases, then we would say that the process is already working, and the Mario Deane situation was an exception," Bunting told The Gleaner yesterday.

"If there is a significant number of cases, then we have to issue some policy directions to hold the [Police] High Command and by extension the divisional commanders accountable for the persons in the lock-ups," he underscored.

Speaking guardedly because of the ongoing investigations into Deane's death, Bunting said he is convinced, based on his assessment of the situation, that there are adequate procedures in place and that police personnel are aware of them. He, however, underscored that it was in the area of compliance "that people are falling down."

"I am not going to blame just the constables or the corporals or the sergeants, we have to look at those who are supervising them to ensure that everybody up the chain take some responsibility to ensure that compliance is adequate," he insisted.

Acting Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds confirmed that on Monday he directed his divisional leaders to carry out an audit of the lock-ups under their command to ensure that all detainees "are properly in custody."

But Hines said he was not expecting any surprises, pointing out that the police regularly conduct reviews of bail conditions for persons in their custody.

"Every morning, a return of persons in custody is sent to the deputy commissioner in charge of administrations and it is scrutinised meticulously to ensure that those in custody are properly in custody, and where they are not, steps are taken to remove them from custody," he said.

"There have been instances where the police would take back persons to court and asked judges to reduce bail sum or even to review bail terms. The Mario Deane incident is most unfortunate, but its not that we have not been doing anything about it," Hines insisted.

Meanwhile, the Jamaica Bar Association (JBA) has painted a different picture of the country's police lock-ups, saying that for years, it has been lamenting "the deplorable, unsanitary and inhumane conditions" in some of these facilities.

The JBA, through its president, Donovan Walker, said in a media release yesterday that detainees and prisoners are routinely beaten in police custody and crammed into overcrowded and unhygienic facilities, posing grave health risks for prisoners, correctional and police officers.

The association said despite its plea, the police continue to round up persons and incarcerate them for minor offences.

"Detainees are denied their right to an attorney and are denied their fundamental right to be brought before a judicial officer within 24 hours of being taken into custody, in breach of the Bail Act," the JBA charged in a statement yesterday on Deane's death.

The police report that Deane was taken into custody on August 6 for possession of a small quantity of marijuana. A family friend who went to bail him reported that a female corporal denied Deane bail after he complained that he did not like police. The family friend was instructed to return several hours later.

When he returned he was informed, that Deane had been taken to hospital. The police countered that he was denied bail because the documents presented by the family friend were not in order and insisted that other detainees at the Barnett Street Police Station delivered the beating that caused his death.

Since then, two detainees have been charged with Deane's murder and six members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force have been interdicted.