Judge notes severe lack of places for attorney/client consultation
Supreme Court judge, Justice Leighton Pusey has pointed to what he says is a “severe lack” of spaces in correctional facilities and police lock-ups where attorneys can dialogue with their clients confidentially.
Justice Pusey made the observation recently during the trial of 23-year-old quality analyst Rushelle Foster, who was last Thursday found guilty of the 2019 stabbing death of national senior women’s footballer Tarania “Plum Plum” Clarke.
Foster’s legal team had complained that they were unable to get permission from the authorities at South Camp Adult Correctional Facility, where she was being held, to meet with their client to take instructions.
“This entire country has a severe lack of places where that can be dealt with. There are some new courthouses, like the one in Spanish Town, which is about 20-odd years old, and when they built that courthouse there is a particular area where lawyers would be able to speak to their clients and it was flooded, and I don’t think it has been used for some time,” Justice Pusey said in responding to the complaint from the attorneys.
He noted, however, that even with this “severe lack” the correctional services were still a cut above the lock-ups as “many of the lock-ups” have no spaces for attorneys or anyone to speak to detainees “in privacy”.
“In fact, there is one lock-up in Kingston where members of the public [or] relatives can’t see them [detainees] at all. So there are things that I am sure the private Bar is willing to advocate for, and there are other legal means through which you can get that done; those are the situations,” Justice Pusey stated. He, however, noted that the South Camp facility was not one of those with many complaints in that respect.
“The point is, though, that the correctional services, they do have a difficulty in terms of the available times, because they do indicate that sometimes people come at inconvenient times and there are issues in terms of other things. But the fact is that there is a duty for them to make the place available for consultations,” Justice Pusey stated.
The Corrections Rules state that reasonable facilities should be provided to the legal adviser of an inmate, which will allow the inmate to remain in the sight of but not in earshot of a member of staff.
In June last year, the
Jamaica Observer reported that the leadership of Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre in downtown Kingston and some members of the legal fraternity were at loggerheads again over a restriction on Saturday visits to clients by the attorneys, who contended that other people have been allowed to visit while they were being barred.
The issue was under probe by the Criminal Law Practice and Procedure Subcommittee of the Jamaican Bar Association. Days later the prison authorities made a concession, with the superintendent of the prison agreeing to make available his cellular phone number and e-mail address to attorneys so they could contact him and make arrangements in advance to visit their clients.
As a rule, attorneys wanting to visit clients are required to complete and submit a visitor application form for each client.
According to the Department of Correctional Service (DCS) in that correspondence, attorneys are permitted to visit correctional facilities Mondays to Fridays between 10:00 am and 12 noon and 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm. On Saturdays attorneys would be allowed to visit between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon, with the caveat that “extenuating circumstances” could cause these allowances to change.
The DCS, in a stilted response to the
Observer’s queries at the time, emphasised that the department “has long kept its commitment to maintaining mutual interaction with our legal counterparts”.
“There is no provision in the governing legislation that explicitly allows visits by legal advisors on a Saturday. In fact, Rule 196 (3) of the Correctional Institution (Adult Correctional Centre) Rules, 1991 explicitly provides for visits on weekdays. However, the DCS, having heard the limitations faced by the legal advisors during the weekdays, has extended its discretion to permit visits on a Saturday between the hours of 10:00 am and 12 noon. There are, however, instances where the action/inaction of a legal advisor, or existing circumstances within the correctional centres, renders it impractical/unsafe to permit entry into the institution,” it said then.
Furthermore, the DCS said it is its “posture to ensure [its] actions do not fetter the system of justice as it is a constitutional right for an inmate to receive proper representation”.
Attorneys have continued to lobby for proper facilities at St Catherine District Prison and Horizon Remand Centre where they can accommodate meetings between clients and counsel to communicate in confidence and privacy without interference or limitation.