Supreme court building Kingston:
Continuing our series on Jamaica’s criminal justice system we want to speak briefly about a motion filed by 8 police officers in Jamaica’s constitutional court regarding the power of recently formed investigative group INDECOM’s power to force them to testify against themselves.
INDECOM had served notices on the claimants for them to attend the Video Unit at the Central Police Station on September 14, 2010 to answer questions in relation to the fatal shooting of two men at Tredegar Park, Spanish Town, St Catherine, on August 12, 2010. They did not attend and were subsequently charged by INDECOM with failure to comply. The case, awaiting the ruling of the Constitutional Court, is for mention on May 4 in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court. The attorney general and the director of public prosecution was also named in the officers suit.(jamaicagleaner.com)
I am not a lawyer ,but with that disclaimer out-of-the-way, let’s get some common sense into the conversation. Without taking sides one way or the other, it simply comes down to the constitution.
INDECOM through its lawyers are contending, had the police officers attended the Central Police Station Video unit to answer questions from INDECOM they could have raised objections regard their constitutional right to silence. Really?
If the constitutional rights of these officers, and all Jamaicans for that matter, are guaranteed by the Jamaican constitution against self-incrimination, as they most certainly are, then the order to testify against themselves is a moot order. Lawyers for INDECOM celebrated as they are , ought to be aware that no person can be forced to testify against themselves, and even though police officers are not people in Jamaica, they are also protected by the constitution against self-incrimination. I will not attempt to indict the competence of this court , however this is a straight forward matter that really ought to be decided straightaway without advisement.
Every last Jamaican citizen is guaranteed the right to defend themselves against what the law calls unlawful arrest, they are empowered to resist arrest if within in their opinion they are being subjected to arrest unlawfully. To citizens of other countries that may be shocking news, but it is the law in Jamaica. Every citizen in Jamaica is also guaranteed the right not to incriminate themselves. In essence no citizen may be forced to speak to the police, if evidence is deemed to be gleaned through threats, intimidation, coercion, or offers and promises of anything material that statement by that person becomes inadmissible in a court of law. Unfortunately high-priced lawyers for INDECOM does not believe those guarantees extend to police officers when they are accused of criminal actions.
What lawyers for INDECOM are asking the constitutional court to do is to disregard the constitutional rights of these 8 police officers, in order that they may have more power. Miranda rights as they are called in the United States, is a must for all persons so arrested or being questioned in connection with an investigation. The right against self-incrimination is fundamental, so fundamental that even though one choses to take what is refered to as the 5th in the USA, in reference to the amendment to the constitution that provides that guarantee, that person may not be penalized in any way for doing so. I know that many will argue that is in the US, the truth is those guarantees are indeed available to every Jamaican.
It would be a good place for the court to establish authenticity as a fair and legitimate arbiter of facts as they relate to the rights of all Jamaicans. It would be a good thing for this court to make sure justice is not only done but also appear to be done. Justice delayed is justice denied. Rule without giving the impression that there is a conspiracy of sorts against these defendants. Rule and allow the case to proceed in the criminal court. The rights of these police defendants are not important to Jamaicans for Justice. The rights of these officers are important to me.