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Man under witness protection threatens lawsuit, alleging breach

Published:Monday | August 22, 2022 | 12:08 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter

A 51-year-old St Andrew man who alerted the police to guns that gangsters had hidden in his yard, says he is being removed from the witness protection programme against his will. The man has also accused case officers of breaching his rights,...

A 51-year-old St Andrew man who alerted the police to guns that gangsters had hidden in his yard, says he is being removed from the witness protection programme against his will.

The man has also accused case officers of breaching his rights, after claiming that he was forcibly held and administered psychiatric drugs at a medical facility, although not diagnosed with mental challenges.

His attorney, Marcus Greenwood, is taking steps to file a lawsuit against the State, arguing that the Ministry of National Security, which has direct oversight of the programme, has failed to honour its end of the agreement.

Greenwood told The Gleaner that the claim is being brought against the State because the ministry has failed to respond to a “letter of invitation for dialogue”.

The Gleaner emailed Courtney Williams, permanent secretary in the national security ministry, two Fridays ago about the matter. However, he is yet to respond substantively, although he acknowledged receipt.

Efforts since that time to reach Williams have been unsuccessful.

The witness, who will not be identified – to protect his identity – has been in the programme since 2020.

Broken promises

In a Gleaner interview two weeks ago, he said what was promised to him upon signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has not been fulfilled.

He said that the MOU included the condition that he would receive a monthly stipend, in the region of the $150,000 he earned previously as a construction worker.

However, he said that he was given $20,000 monthly upon entering the programme before his now-deceased lawyer, Ernest Smith, lobbied for a $12,000 increase. For the past two months, he has received $36,000.

Additionally, he said that he agreed to enter the programme on the condition that he would be relocated overseas after the trial.

But following a public dispute at a pharmacy in one of the parishes he was relocated to, he said his case officer told him that the court proceedings had ended and he would be released from the programme.

He said he was further informed that the main suspect was killed by the police last year.

“They said with people like these (criminals), you cannot remain in Jamaica. We’re going to send you away when the trial is done, but they have done nothing to try and apprehend the people that put the gun there. How can the court be finished with a case that didn’t even start?” the man said.

He told The Gleaner that prior to that disclosure, he was being treated for depression after he had to be relocated from the parish he was originally taken to because he was “spotted” twice.

The witness said that a family member in the parish to which he was transferred had threatened him after he began working with the police.

“My brother was there and he said that I jeopardised the family and put the family at risk, so anywhere he sees me, he’s going to endanger my life. They put me in a parish that I did not want to be, and that is where I got a heart attack,” he told The Gleaner.

He said that the ministry informed him that it was an oversight.

Contaminated water

The man said that he was subsequently pulled from the parish, but fell ill again where he was relocated because of water challenges.

He said that he received the service only twice per week and that water from an installed tank had become contaminated.

The witness said that after visiting a doctor, he was given a prescription to fill at a specified pharmacy under the programme.

But the pharmacist informed him, he said, that she was not given any instruction to fill the prescription.

“I was in pain and there was a lot of stuff coming out on me ... . I was behaving [badly]. A day after, I was told that I didn’t have any manners and that I was weaned from the programme,” he said.

The witness said following the incident, a medical team was called in and he was “tied down” and taken to a facility and given several injections.

“... Because I was seeing a psychiatrist, they said that I was mentally challenged, but I was seeing the doctor because I was depressed. I was in a parish that I was not supposed to be in,” he said.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang told The Gleaner that while the programme has its challenges, it “has worked well”.

Chang was asked if the ministry was doing enough to ensure that people who have provided the police with information are being properly cared for and protected, and whether there were plans to overhaul the programme.

“We have not lost anybody to the extent that we are comfortable that the programme has been working well. The only people we have lost are people who have left the programme or refused to go on the programme.

“We know that in today’s Jamaica, if you are giving the first-person affidavit against known criminals or killers, they take a major risk and can be killed. But the programme itself has been pretty good in securing their members,” he said.

Chang added that in instances where the cases are prolonged for a year or two, it can be disruptive to the lives of witnesses.