Advocates’ association wants police personnel to wear body cameras
The Advocates’ Association of Jamaica (AAJ) is calling for the police to be equipped with body cameras in light of the proposed life sentence for illegal possession of firearm, with convicts not eligible for parole before 15 years in prison.
“Clients have approached us with complaints that the police fabricate cases against them,[saying] that they fired at the police as a means of grounding cases against them,” Leonard Green. president of the AAJ, said recently.
“In those circumstances, the situation could be rectified by the provision of body cameras to ensure that the police officers do not fall prey to the temptation of providing untruthful evidence against persons who are innocent,” said Green.
Strong criticisms were made by the Court of Appeal this year as to its reasons for freeing Ponjo Lee last year. Lee was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years’ imprisonment for shooting at the police, but spent five years in prison before his acquittal.
The court upheld submissions from attorney-at-law Jacqueline Cummings, who represented Lee, that the ballistics evidence did not support the evidence given by the police witnesses.
Crown Counsel Andre Wedderburn was applauded by the Court of Appeal for his candour in conceding that the judge failed to show how she resolved the discrepancies between the forensic evidence and that given by the policemen. Wedderburn conceded also that there was the risk of a miscarriage of justice as the conviction was not safe.
“Justice is not literally blind, and scientific evidence does not lie,’ Cummings said in response to Lee’s acquittal.
The court found that there was a miscarriage of justice, because the trial judge did not deal adequately with the evidence given by four police officers in relation to the shooting incident. The ballistics report showed that of the four policemen involved, only two of them fired their weapons, and all the expended shells at the scene came from their firearms. The Nissan motor car had several bullet holes.
Lee was convicted in April 2016 on charges of illegal possession of firearm and shooting with intent. He was sentenced a month later to a total of 15 years’ imprisonment. He said in his defence that it was the police who fired at the motor vehicle in which he and other men were travelling.
One of the policemen had testified that on February 18, 2014, he was on duty on Hagley Park Road, St Andrew, when he spotted a heavily tinted Nissan motor car travelling in front of his unmarked police vehicle. He heard a radio transmission and in response, radioed police control. He followed the motor car on to Olympic Way, Kingston 11. He saw a marked police vehicle trying to stop the motor car, but it drove on the sidewalk and sped away. He said the occupants in the Nissan motor car fired shots in his direction and he returned the fire. The car stopped on Phillip Avenue and three men alighted from the vehicle firing shots.
The third man, who was the accused, Lee, was seen sitting on the sidewalk with blood on his back. Lee was taken to hospital because he was shot.
The Court of Appeal found that each of the three police officers who were on Olympic Way observed the incident differently, and so did not support the forensic and photographic evidence. The court said that the account by the policeman in the unmarked police vehicle as to the chain of events on Phillip Avenue did not support the forensic and photographic evidence of what took place.
It was the court’s finding that the judge did not demonstrate any consideration of the fact that the ballistics report did not support the claim of shooting from persons inside the Nissan motor car.
“If the officers were shown to have lied on these important issues, then how could they be found to be witnesses of truth?” the court queried.
– Barbara Gayle