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First female public defender appointed

Published:Tuesday | January 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

JAMAICA'S FIRST public defender, Howard Hamilton, yesterday hailed the appointment of Arlene Harrison Henry, a 37-year veteran in the legal profession, who was yesterday announced as the country's first female public defender.

"I think it is an excellent selection. I was privileged the other day to see her résumé. It was literally overwhelming; I couldn't believe in such a short space of a lifetime she could have done so much," Hamilton told The Gleaner.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen yesterday announced the appointment of Harrison Henry to the vacant post of public defender. Her appointment takes effect on January 19.

Hamilton indicated that he expected the new public defender to excel in the office.

Donovan Walker, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, said he was confident that Harrison Henry would bring a level of intellect and hard work that would be beneficial to the people of Jamaica, particularly the less fortunate in society who require the work of the Office of the Public Defender.

"The Jamaican Bar Association is very familiar with Mrs Harrison Henry's work, as she was a past president of the association for many years, and in that regard we have come to know her work and worth and we are confident that she will discharge her duties effectively and perhaps even help to grow that office from strength to strength," he said.

Called to the Bar in 1978, Harrison Henry worked in the public service until 1983. Her last job as a public servant was assistant Crown Counsel in the Attorney General's Chambers.

Harrison Henry then moved on to establish her private practice, where she became well-known for her work as a human-rights activist.

She was elected president of the Jamaican Council for Human Rights in April 2006. In the same year, she was appointed to the Police Civilian Oversight Authority and since 2009 has served on the Police Service Commission.

The news release from King's House said Harrison Henry's educational qualifications, track record of performance as an attorney-at-law and human-rights advocate, "as well as her high sense of civic responsibility", make her eminently prepared for effective service as public defender.

Harrison Henry will be sworn into office at a ceremony to be held at King's House on Friday.