Bunting blames old colonial-era laws for mix-up involving foul-mouth St Ann manFriday, July 30, 2021
BY ARTHUR HALL
OPPOSITION spokesman on national security Peter Bunting is blaming antiquated laws for the embarrassing, and possible costly decision, by the police to detain a St Ann man who aimed a foul-mouthed tirade at Prime Minister Andrew Holness in a video which went viral at the start of this week.
The man, Shaquille Higgins, is expected to file a lawsuit against the police and the Government and Bunting is convinced that the State would not find itself in this position if some laws which have been on the books for decades had been revised.
“The Town and Country Act of 1943 is the basis on which we are operating after six decades of post-Independence and that cannot make any sense at all. And the extent to which it is applied it seems to be applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner,” said Bunting yesterday during the quarterly media briefing of the civil society's Crime Monitoring and Oversight Committee (CMOC)
“If in the long term we are going to build trust between the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) and the citizenry, some of these laws that are no longer relevant need to be re-examined,” added Bunting.
The imbroglio surrounding the vulgar Higgins deepened on Tuesday when the JCF reported that he had been taken into custody, not because of his foul-mouthed tirade aimed at Holness, but because he was a suspect in a case of larceny in the parish.
But on Wednesday, Higgins was released without charge and Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson announced that he had ordered the Inspectorate of Professional Standards to investigate the circumstances surrounding the actions of the members of the JCF during the arrest.
Bunting made it clear that he was not amused about the way the matter played out as he segued from a criticism of the JCF's failure to reduce the country's murder total, which up to yesterday was 817, eight per cent above the same period last year, into the latest hot-button topic in Jamaica.
“The JCF members really invaded the privacy of the family home, ignored the dignity of the young man and his family and then proceeded to film and disseminate the videos, plus one where he was clearly being coerced into an apology,” said Bunting.
“Now this raises a whole set of red flags for human rights and the dignity of an individual… It was disappointing to the extent that there were issues of the legality of the social media posts, I certainly think the [initial] response of the JCF has not helped in their trust and credibility,” added Bunting.
He said the latter release from the police commissioner went some way in making amends but the first release issued by the JCF was, “absurd and embarrassing and it certainly added insult to injury”.
“The whole basis on which someone could be arrested [in this case] is based on colonial period laws, which most of the relevance of them today, I think, would be in question. I would suggest that as we look at the schedule of… legislative work that needs to be done, that CMOC will oversee, and monitor… we need to look at a review of some of these colonial-era laws,” declared Bunting.
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