A recent event of much importance is playing out in the upper echelons of the Jamaican society which has tremendous significance within the larger conversation on crime and it is largely being ignored.
At the center of that storm is Red Hills Road Medical Doctor Jephthah Ford who has been convicted in the courts on charges that he attempted to pervert the course of justice.
The case demonstrates in clear unequivocal ways, political affiliations, power and how the overarching sense of entitlement over-rides the criminal justice system and the impact it is having on crime overall.
It demonstrates how politicians, powerful monied citizens, and senior police officers continue to be the backbone of the crime culture through affiliations and associations while using tear-jerking stories to justify collusion and complicity with unethical and criminal behavior.
Additionally, it shows how the much-maligned lower ranks of the police are used at different points as scapegoats.
We see how good police work in the final analysis which netted a big fish can be the subject of subversion by senior police officials and politicians.
The case involving Jephthah Ford began in 2014 when he was arrested and charged after he attempted to bribe a police officer to release two Surinamese men who had been caught with nearly $60 million. He also requested the return of the confiscated funds. During the 10-day trial that started in May, prosecutor Joel Brown led evidence that Ford was caught on camera offering a percentage of the money seized to a police officer in exchange for the release of the men and the funds.
The two foreigners — Roshen Daniels and Murvin Reingold — were held after police intercepted a motor vehicle on Half-Way-Tree Road in St Andrew on April 7 and found US$533,886 and J$1.3 million. The men were later taken to their apartment where the police seized an additional US$3,000, J$700 and 55 Surinamese dollars. The two were subsequently charged with possession of criminal property and conspiracy to possess criminal property but were freed of the charges when they appeared in court. Dr. Ford had contacted the officer while the men were in custody and requested a meeting to discuss the case. During the meeting, Ford was captured on camera asking for the case against the men to be dismissed. Ford told the court, during the trial, that he was trying to assist the Surinamese men by preventing them from remaining in custody because he feared they were going to be killed by the police. According to the JamaicaObserver.com.
The charges and ultimate conviction of Ford is not the real issue here, even though it is extremely rare and almost unheard of, that the prominent and well connected upper-crust are charged, convicted,much less held accountable for their crimes.
The real issue in my estimation are the people who have come out of the woodwork trying to influence the already useless liberal courts not to impose a custodial sentence on the now convicted felon, Jephthah Ford.
Getting lost in all of this is the integrity and commendable actions of the police officers involved in the investigations who could have done what many of them would have done given the same set of circumstances but who chose to do the right thing.
Lastly, it demonstrates that despite the protestations of those who would step forward to give character testimonials on behalf of Ford he is no different than any critter which gets its tail caught in a crack.
Even as a retired Assistant Commissioner who is a known People’s National Party supporter steps forward to give character evidence for Ford, the very accused Ford is on record smearing the police as a defense strategy.
Stepping to the fore to give character evidence on behalf of Jephthah Ford was #1 Minister of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sports Olivia Babsy” Grange.
Grange told the court that despite their political affiliations, Grange being a member of the Jamaica Labour Party and Ford a former People’s National Party politician, he is her family doctor.
The minister explained that Ford was the one who diagnosed her late mother with stage-four cancer, after the doctors in Canada, where she was residing, were unable to detect what was wrong with her. Grange said she felt responsible to give evidence in support of Ford spite of her busy schedule.
Grange told the court she believed it would be a traumatic event were Jephthah Ford was to be given a custodial sentence for his crimes.
She described Ford as a caring person who has saved many lives and provided free health care to countless individuals, admitted yesterday that she was a “little emotional”.
In what could easily pass as a wonderful example of bi-partisanship, an example of how far we have come since the days when Labourites and Kumreds[sic] were killing each other over politics en-masse, this effort to influence the courts is nothing more than an attempt to keep a member of the upper class from facing real justice.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving character evidence on behalf of someone, in fact, it is a useful tool which gives the trial judge a working idea of who the defendant really is and is usually instrumental in mitigating whatever sentence the court would normally apply.
However, in a small country like Jamaica where it seems that only the little fish gets fried while the big fish gets thrown back, contrary to conventional wisdom, this sends a bad message, the optics are not good.
It demonstrates at the very least, a craven yet transparent attempt to once again usurp the process, to pervert the course of justice only this time using platitudes and sappy tales instead of pounds of cash.
It is a vile attempt to continue to keep the upper crust of the society from the humbling confines of penal confinement.
I have never seen or heard of a single case where Ms. Grange have ever attempted to offer character evidence for anyone from below Cross-Roads.
Forner Assistant Commissioner of Police Garnett Daley. #2
Former Assistant Commissioner of Police Daley another of the character witnesses for Ford told the court the following.
That he came in contact with Ford while he was assigned to the Constant Spring Police Station, testified that he had known Ford for 40 years. He said he met Ford when he was a detective inspector and testified that during his tenure at the station Ford would assist the police with sick prisoners and police officers who were injured. The retired cop explained that for more than 20 years Ford would have treated police officers at his office if the environment at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) was not safe.
“I recalled an officer who was shot and he was rushed to KPH — and this was the time when the vicinity of the KPH was very volatile — and I called Dr Ford and he rushed to KPH, where he examined him and transferred him to St Andrew Hospital, and that patient became his patient at that time,” Daley said. Samuels, during the examination-in-chief, asked Daley if there were any other medical doctors in the vicinity who would offer such services.
“I can’t recall,” Daley replied. “How would you view that?” Samuels asked Daley.“[As] a good gesture,” Daley replied. Daley told the court that Ford still maintains a good rapport with individuals in the community. On cross-examination, the prosecutor questioned Daley’s relationship with the medical doctor. “For 20 years most of your interaction would be working?” the prosecutor asked. “Yes, and I would see him from time to time,” Daley replied. jamaicaobserver.com
Garnet Daley was an Assistant Superintendent while I was there as a constable attached to the CIB office.
Daley’s testimony though true in most regards does not tell the whole story. As a medical doctor, Ford is a signatory to what is known as the Hippocratic oath.
The Hippocratic oath is a pact to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability, to preserve a patient’s privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, and so on. His dedication to service as a doctor as articulated by Daley and Grange is not unique to Ford, it is his job.
What they do not tell the court and won’t tell the court is that Ford’s practice was well renowned in police circles for treating criminal gunmen who shunned the public medical facilities out of fear of being caught.
Ford’s attention to the Hippocratic oath had precious little to do with community or service it was about his own narrow self-interest.
Renowned lawyer Bert Samuels who is representing Ford has also offered himself up to the court to give character evidence on behalf of his client.
Bert Samuels, Garnet Daley, and Ford complete the nice tight little triangle of PNP operatives currying favor to avoid the fair and justified dispensation of Justice.
Grange is allowing herself to be used in this process and it sends a bad message to the average joe that the law applies only to the guy on the corner and not the connected.
At a time when every tongue is wagging about police corruption real or perceived, these officers did the right thing and the courts have a duty to impose a sentence commensurate with the crime regardless of the protestations before it.
Those officers could easily have taken a bribe and walked away, they chose to do the right thing.
It is up to this court to do the right thing and send a message that regardless of who you are and what you may have done with your life all are equal in the sight of the law.
Failing which we are all wasting our time talking about corruption and the escalation of crime.
We will await the outcome.