Court says INDECOM has power of arrest

BY PAUL HENRY Co-ordinator Crime/Court Desk

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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THE Constitutional Court yesterday ruled that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has the power to arrest, charge and prosecute the police without the customary ruling from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

"The commissioner and the investigative staff of INDECOM have the power of arrest both under common law and by virtue of the [INDECOM] Act, having being conferred with the powers of a constable," said the conclusion of the 124-page ruling that was released in draft form to attorneys in the matter.

"The commissioner and investigative staff have the powers at common law to charge and initiate prosecutions of members of the police force. There is no requirement for a ruling of the DPP before members of the police force are arrested and charged by officers of INDECOM," stated the ruling handed down by the court, comprising Justices Horace Marsh, Lennox Campbell and David Fraser.

According to the court, the powers possessed by the commission does not undermine the "constitutional authority of the DPP who still retains the authority to take over and/or discontinue any prosecution where such action is deemed appropriate by the DPP".

The ruling -- which came as a result of a challenge from the Jamaica Police Federation, the Police Officers' Association, the Special Constabulary Force Association and the United District Constables' Association -- is a landmark for the three-year-old body that had been lobbying for more power.

The police representative bodies had brought the suit seeking declarations from the court as to whether INDECOM had any such powers without a ruling from the DPP.

INDECOM described the ruling in a press release as a "major victory".

As recently as May, INDECOM boss Terrence Williams publicly criticised the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in a local publication, over the length of time it takes to make rulings on whether or not charges should be brought against members of the security forces implicated in allegations of wrongdoing.

At the same time, Williams again proposed that his office be empowered to charge and prosecute.

But the criticism did not go down well with DPP Paula Llewellyn, QC, who fired back at Williams during a speaking engagement on the morning the comments were published.

"Now [Williams] has indicated that perhaps in a turnaround time of six weeks, if he had the power to prosecute, then... he would be able to investigate and prosecute in six weeks," said Llewellyn then. "I just call it youthful exuberance in terms of his desire and enthusiasm, which I have too, to serve the public."

Yesterday, Llewellyn declined to comment on the ruling, saying she is yet to read it.

The suit was brought against INDECOM after it initiated prosecution of Corporal Malica Reid over the November 4, 2012 shooting death of Negril businessman Frederick 'Mickey' Hill.

Llewellyn subsequently ended the commission's prosecution of Reid and initiated his prosecution by her office.

Hill is to be tried in the Home Circuit Court.




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