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Sighs of relief as Forbes gets non-custodial sentence

BY KARYL WALKER Editor — Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 16, 2014    

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SENIOR Superintendent James Forbes stood uneasily as Resident Magistrate Stephanie Jackson-Haisley signalled her intention to send a strong message in handing down her sentence on him.

Anxiety and fear of imprisonment were clear in his expression, but that quickly turned to relief when the magistrate announced that he would be fined $800,000 or serve six months at hard labour for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

RM Jackson-Haisley said her decision was influenced by the fact that Forbes had an unblemished career and because of the glowing character testimonies that were offered.

"SSP Forbes, in dealing with the matter in the way he did, was reprehensible and I must give thought to that. All persons are subject to the law. The message that is sent is that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated and a term of imprisonment would certainly send that message," the magistrate said.

At that point the anxiety showed on the faces of his two co-accused — member of parliament Daryl Vaz and businessman Bruce Bicknell — as well as the battery of cops who had turned out in support of their embattled colleague.

But it was a collective sigh of relief that went through the courtroom when the judge handed down the non-custodial sentence.

Less than an hour after the sentence was handed down the money was paid over to the Government and Forbes was a free man.

Earlier a packed courtroom heard character testimony from veteran journalist Fae Ellington, Reverend James Henry and Mountain View resident Venessa Taylor.

Ellington told the court that she knew Forbes in a professional capacity for 25 years when he was head of the Police Federation and while she was invited to train the staff at the Constabulary Communication Network, which he headed.

"He was a good leader. Although he was firm and stood up for what was right, if a position he had was challenged he would listen and if it made sense he would change his perspective and position," Ellington said.

Outside the court, Ellington and Forbes' former boss, retired Superintendent Ionie Ramsay, hugged each other and paid glowing tributes to the convicted cop.

Forbes was charged following a meeting he organised at his Oxford Road office with Bicknell and two policemen who had ticketed Bicknell for speeding in 2012.

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