Cops breaching emergency-power rules with faulty data, says public defender

The Office of the Public Defender (OPD) has asserted that the police are operating in breach of the regulations governing the ongoing state of public emergency in St James with "deficient" record-keeping for detainees and warns that this could adversely affect those who want to pursue legal action against the Government.

As an example, Public Defender Arlene Harrison-Henry said police statistics reviewed by her office have revealed that in cases where persons were released without criminal charges, the police gave no reasons for their detention.

"The detainees' custody card simply stated 'SOE' or 'SOPE' as to the reasons for detention," Harrison-Henry said yesterday during her appearance before the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament.

The committee is reviewing the conduct of the three states of public emergency that are now in place in St James; the St Catherine North Police Division; and sections of the Corporate Area that fall within the St Andrew South, Kingston West, and Kingston Central police divisions.

Further, Harrison-Henry revealed that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) data is "void, empty, non-existent"of any record of an investigating or apprehending officer in cases of detention "as is required by Regulation 30 of the emergency powers regulations [of] January 18, 2018".

"The data shows beyond challenge that the majority of persons detained, processed, and then released without being charged were not detained in accordance with the provisions of Regulation 30 but still apprehended and kept in custody purportedly by the use of the said regulation," she reasoned.

MISSING DATA

The public defender, citing other examples of the deficiencies in the police data, said that in 656 cases, there were no dates when a detainee had been taken into custody while there were no release dates in 401 cases.

In addition, she said in 253 cases, there were no addresses listed for detainees, and in 259 cases, their date of birth was missing.

Harrison-Henry said that in cases where information is missing - especially critical data related to the date a detainee is taken into custody or released - or where the police record is not reliable and secured, those detainees who want to pursue a claim for false imprisonment would be at a disadvantage in court.

"Where there is missing data, people's rights and capacity to go to court and establish their case is reduced because when the information is sought from the police, they would have no data or something else may come forward," she posited.

The public defender reiterated her assertion that the basis for detentions under the state of public emergency is not intelligence-driven.

"The detentions are arbitrary and mainly random, without any legal basis and aimed at particular group of youths in certain communities," she insisted.

Harrison-Henry revealed that up to last weekend, a total of 4,085 persons had been detained under the state of emergency in St James for an average of four days. She said the number included 105 children, 17 years old and younger.

However, she said the police statistics showed that only 153 persons were charged, mainly with minor offences.


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