NZINGA King, who alleged that she was forcibly trimmed by a cop while in custody, could face charges for creating public mischief following a ruling handed down by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) on Wednesday.
While the ODPP did not recommend that King be charged creating public mischief, it said the police was free to determine if they wish to lay such charges.
“We are aware that the police authorities have primacy of decision-making regarding any investigation and the laying of charges. It is a matter entirely for them if they believe there is a sufficient basis to pursue an investigation against Ms King. They may choose to do so or they may decline,” a release outlining the ODPP's recommendations said.
Commenting on the DPP's ruling, King's attorney-at-law Isat Buchanan, said, “I am not surprised by the ruling of the ODPP and it does not affect Nzinga's access to justice in the Civil Court.”
As it relates to whether King could be charged for public mischief by cops, he stressed that the police “can go ahead”.
“They can do whatever they want to do, they are given those powers and if they wish to do that, it is not a problem. Miss King will be proceeding to have her claim heard in the civil jurisdiction. It doesn't change that she was traumatised by a situation that she said happened. What the ODPP's decision is, is a matter of evidence; credibility is a matter for the jury not the ODPP,” Buchanan told the Jamaica Observer.
Last year, a video was circulated on social media in which 19-year-old King and her mother Shirley McIntosh claimed that a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force assigned to the Four Paths Police Station in Clarendon forcibly trimmed King's locks on July 22, 2021.
In the video, King, who said she is a lifelong Rastafarian, also alleged that she was unfairly detained by the police who discharged pepper spray inside a public passenger vehicle on June 29, 2021. King said she came out the vehicle, removed her mask — which she said was covered in pepper spray — questioned the officers, who she said got “really upset”.
But according to the police account, when the officer approached her and made enquiries about her mask she became boisterous. She was advised of the offence of failing to wear a mask in public in breach of the Disaster Risk Management Act and arrested.
“She became even more obstreperous and verbally maligned the officer and resisted lawful detention. The officer stated that the disorderly conduct continued to accelerate causing him to employ every aspect of his training geared at de-escalating conflict. Ms King proved impervious to these methods and the officer had to resort to the use of pepper spray. After managing to place her under arrest, Ms King continued her verbal onslaught and hurled foul indecencies at the officer even when the offences were outlined to her,” the police account from the release said, noting that she was also charged for the offences of disorderly conduct, and abusive language.
When she appeared in court on July 22, she pleaded guilty to the offences of disorderly conduct, and abusive language and was sentenced to a fine of $3,000 or 10 days' imprisonment on each offence, but she pleaded not guilty to breaching the Disaster Risk Management Act. After court, she was taken to the Four Paths Police Station as the fines had not been paid.
The police account further stated that when King entered the station she exhibited boisterous behaviour towards a male officer, while cursing. She was then searched by a female officer, who instructed her to loosen her hair, searched her hair and placed her in the cell. After placing her in the cell, the female officer heard other prisoners shouting that King was pulling and tearing out her hair and throwing it on the ground.
The police's account of King tearing out her locks was corroborated by an account from a detainee at the station, Witness number one, who was housed in cell number one, which was across from cell number three where King was.
“Witness number one became aware that this young lady was called Candy. While Candy was seated on the bunk bed she could see her and she heard Candy say that her hair 'couldn't stay like this'. Witness number one then observed Candy 'tearing out the locks' out of her head,” the detainee's account said.
Witness one and other detainees asked King why she decided to pull out her hair and she told them she would dye her hair red when released.
“Over the period of two days, Candy plucked the locks from her head and thereafter tied her head with a cloth. Upon Candy's release, she told the other prisoners that she was going to 'obeah' them so that they would kill each other in the cells,” the detainee's account added.
Meanwhile, witness two's account said that upon coming into the cell, King had her phone and was on a video call telling someone that the police had cut her hair. Witness two noticed at that time that King had shoulder-length locks where the back of her hair seemed as if it was cut in style.
Other recommendations made by the ODPP indicated that no criminal charges be laid against the female police officer, in respect of the allegations made by King involving the cutting of her hair, or criminal charges be laid against the male police officer pertaining to allegations involving assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The ODPP along with the Independent Commission of Investigations also suggested that King be given professional counselling.
“We strongly recommend this course be pursued by her family and any competent authority,” the ODPP said.