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George Wright: Condemned without cause

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dear Editor,

George Wright has a right and entitlement, like every other Jamaican, to the protection of the laws of Jamaica, particularly the most supreme law of the nation — the constitution.

The Constitution of Jamaica affords every citizen of Jamaica fundamental rights and freedoms. It also prescribes that every individual who is charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the instant case, the treatment of Wright by many seems to run afoul of these sacrosanct precepts afforded to all of us in circumstances in which he is not even charged.

There has been widespread condemnation of Westmoreland Central Member of Parliament George Wright without lawful cause.

The law makes absolutely no room for conjecture due to the age-old maxim. “He who asserts must prove.” Ergo, there exists, at this time, no legal or evidential basis to condemn a man viewed as innocent through the constitutional lens.

Having regard to the public pronouncement of the police that the investigation has come to an end due to the poor quality of the video footage and lack of evidence in the matter, the multitude of public statements implicating Wright is, in my view, defamatory.

The police have indicated in no uncertain terms that there exists no written statement or witnesses in the matter. Even with the greatest efforts by the police, the position in law is that the giving of statements by witnesses ought to be voluntary — see the Court of Appeal case of Dean Palmer v R [2017] JMCA Crim 26.

Moreover, in the Supreme Court case of Lennox Gayle v Regina [2017] JMSC Crim 1, Justice Batts espoused the following legal principle: “It seems to me quite clear that though every citizen has a moral duty or, if you like, a social duty to assist the police, there is no legal duty to that effect, and indeed the whole basis of the common law is that right of the individual to refuse to answer questions put to him by persons in authority, and a refusal to accompany those in authority to any particular place short of course of arrest.”

Individuals that publicly commented on the matter implicating Wright prior to the police concluding their investigations and the court ruling on same would have done so in the wrong order by proverbially putting the cart before the horse. This erroneous breach intermeddled with Wright's constitutional right to due process of law.

It is most opportune to close with the timely reminder that the last political figure who was publicly defamed was successful in his lawsuit wherein the defendants were ordered by the court to pay the sum of $12 million, along with further millions in legal costs — see the case of Percival James Patterson v Cliff Hughes & Nationwide News Network Ltd [2014] JMSC Civ 167.

A word to the wise is sufficient.

Able-Don Foote

Principal attorney-at-law

Able Attorneys