Innocent until proven guilty
Our Readers' Opinions
December 16, 2022
Innocent until proven guilty

EDITOR: I am so fed up of the ineptitude masquerading as competence in this place.

Something is rotten in the Justice System in this country. It is a system. There is something called “due process.” An accused person is entitled to legal representation. The police and prosecutors have their roles and so too do defence counsel. The judge, the jury, the bailiffs the police in the courtroom each have their roles to play.

BUT: It looks like the police no longer know their role. They do not investigate. They pick up people and badger them into giving statements or doing interviews hoping they incriminate themselves. If you had a conviction and served your time you are never given a chance to recover. You are targeted by the police for any and every crime that ever takes place where you live, after you get out. You are harassed.

Bail is never granted on capital offenses. That means that you are automatically remanded when you get charged with murder, regardless of whether the facts can sustain the charge preliminarily or not.

So, the police charge you , without evidence, and you’re remanded in custody which means you go to jail pending trial and you could stay there for four years sometimes waiting for the trial to take place. This way they punish you without a trial while you wait for it to happen. They then go about trying to build a case while you are on remand.

At the police station and the prison, there is no room/ no space dedicated for a lawyer and their client to speak privately, without the police being able to see and hear what you’re discussing.

Even before we get to this point, the police make people believe they HAVE to give a statement or to answer questions in an interview. And if you don’t, then it means you’re guilty. From the moment you tell the police that you have a lawyer or want to speak to your lawyer they are not obliged to force you to give them a statement.

The next thing is, the police are not obliged to tell you the truth. They can in interrogation tell you anything to get you to give them a statement. Silence is golden. Say nothing to them when they are name dropping and telling you your friends or family told them things or that someone else implicated you. Silence is golden. SHUT YOUR MOUTH.

So this weekend I visited the police station on Sunday to see someone related to a client of mine who was arrested on suspicion of a crime. This person has a previous conviction, served his time and is only a suspect in this new matter because he has a previous conviction for something that is not a like offence to what he’s being charged with now.

He was brought in on suspicion of this crime last year. He was held for two days and then released. Since his conviction, he has tried to rebuild his life. His family says if he spits the police want to lock him up.

When I got to the police station, I told the auxiliary police sentry at the door that I was going to the CID and I made my way in. She was highly annoyed that I didn’t go to the central office downstairs and announce my presence to other police officers there. She just pointed at a room and told me to go there. She didn’t ask me for my name or ask whether I was counsel, so I didn’t offer it because far too often we allow incompetent people to believe their level of ineptitude is acceptable.

A police station is not a private space. It is supposed to be a place of refuge for anyone; and it is always open. Officers stationed there are mandated to help, to come to the aid of the citizens. So officer you enquire, you comfort, you assist, you ask the questions. She didn’t ask me anything about myself because she does not understand her function and I did not offer additional info because I wanted to see what she would do. She sent me to a room and didn’t explain what for, so I watched her, and went to the CID. Epic fail.

At CID this young man was being held in the dingy holding cell upstairs at the entrance to the CID. He was behind bars and still handcuffed!!!!! Why? Was he a danger to himself? No. Was he violent? No. I asked the officer why he was behind bars and still handcuffed. He said he was not the Investigating Officer. And, the officer conducting the investigation which led to this young man’s arrest gave me some cock and bull story about some man on crutches who ran out of the station and has never been found…rubbish, and irrelevant.

This young man was in a holding cell with a police officer sitting one footstep away and he was still handcuffed. Now, if I believe family members who told me that he was picked up, and presumably handcuffed since 5:00 that morning, then when I went to see him around 11:00, he by that time may have been handcuffed for six hours.

It is the nonchalance of the police and the total disregard for the rights of someone accused of a crime that irks me, Because you are accused, that does not mean that you are guilty. It’s not automatic that your rights are taken away.

In this country, just the allegation is sufficient to treat an accused person like a convicted criminal. This is totally unacceptable and it will continue to be so because the public has been conditioned to believe that accused people deserve to be treated this way. What is the saying? “If yo nah bin deh yuh name wouldn’t call!” (NONSENSE!)

For the people who declare themselves to be tough on crime and the causes of crime, and who are clearly blind to the state of affairs, the central police station stinks. The entrance to the CID is dirty, the holding cell is foul and where the police are required to sit to see everyone entering the CID is totally depressing, smelly, dirty. The furniture is broken, the walls are full of grime. And there is no space for an accused to see their lawyer in private. So the powers that be don’t care for the police officers’ working conditions, they don’t care for due process and they don’t care for the accused persons who they determine are guilty just because “their name call….”

If you just accept this by saying “Vincy different” then you too are stuck in the matrix of mediocrity.

Vynnette A. Frederick