Human Rights Association head marches for PACE
March 8, 2007
Human Rights Association head marches for PACE

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) is crucial to the prevention of abuse by over zealous police officers in obtaining confessions.

This is the view of the Human Rights Association of St Vincent and the Grenadines as was expressed in a press release issued on Tuesday.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves however sought to assure citizens that their rights were not being sacrificed by the abolition of PACE from the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines when he presented the Bill in parliament two weeks ago.

Dr Gonsalves said that the rights of accused will continue to be protected by the police regulations and the “Judges Rules” as they were before the introduction of PACE.

The “Judges Rules” are accepted guidelines about police procedure in the execution of their duties and address the maintenance of people’s human rights.

He said that PACE presented confusion in the system because there was no clarity as to when the local provisions were to be applied and in what instances should PACE be used. This he noted were the findings of the Law Lords of the Privy Counsel when they ruled on a case of Eversley Thompson vs. The Queen in 1997.

Dr Gonsalves stressed that protection of citizens’ rights and the rights of accused persons are already catered for in other laws on our books. He suggested that the removal of PACE will simply provide clarity in the applications of the law.

Parnell Campbell, the former Attorney General agrees.

He said that when he was in office he examined the PACE in 1987 and found it to be too complicated for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“That is why when we reviewed the laws in 1990, PACE wasn’t included,” Campbell said in his public service programme ‘The Law and You,’ earlier this week.

Campbell said that the PACE required that every police station be equipped with video and taping facilities and persons trained to operate them. He noted that in his opinion the PACE gave criminals a greater edge over the prosecution.

PACE was introduced in Britain in 1984 to be a legislative framework for the powers of police officers in England and Wales to combat crime, as well as providing codes of practice for the exercise of those powers.

The Human Rights Association through its press release last Tuesday is concerned that moving away from PACE could open the door to the violation of the rights of individuals.

At a press conference called to address death threats they have allegedly received, Nicole Sylvester and Kay Bacchus-Browne voiced their stance and displeasure at PACE’s removal.

“The Privy Counsel says PACE is good, it balances between the police and the citizens,” said Bacchus-Browne.

She claimed that abolishing PACE was one of the reasons why she decided to be a part of the protest march and rally, which was organized by the NDP; she felt that government’s intention was not in the interest of the furtherance of the protection of human rights.