Thu | Jun 4, 2020

Cornwall Bar gives SOE passing grade

Published:Wednesday | May 15, 2019 | 12:25 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


The detention and treatment of Jamaicans under the state of emergency (SOE) activated across three western parishes have got the thumbs up from the Cornwall Bar Association (CBA).

A two-week crackdown was ordered in St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, effectively curtailing civilian rights and freedoms. The security measure has since been extended for three months.

Lambert Johnson, newly installed president of the CBA, said that the processing and overall treatment of detainees under the present SOE, which was announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on April 30, was a vast improvement on the excesses meted out to detainees in the yearlong SOE in St James, which ended on January 31 this year.

“So far, what’s been happening is far better this time around than on the first occasion, because our concern was that the police would be more targeted in the persons who they picked up,” said Johnson. “Secondly, we were concerned that, having picked up persons in whom they had no interest, they would have the systems in place to ensure the persons would be out of custody within 24 hours.

“Additionally, we were concerned about the conditions in which the men were being held. Now, on this occasion, this second time around, the SOE seems to have gotten those things much improved, so the concerns that existed in the first SOE are not so live at this time,” he added.

The St James SOE came under intense scrutiny from the CBA’s former president, Stacy-Ann Young, who criticised the Ministry of National Security for failing to sign several detention orders that would have sped up tribunal hearings for persons held indefinitely.

Johnson also noted that under the current three-parish SOE, the police currently have 41 persons in custody: 15 in Hanover; 12 in St James; and 14 in Westmoreland.

Nearly 800 persons were detained in the early stages of last year’s SOE.

“The police seem to be laser-focused, and they seem to have gone spearfishing and not net fishing this time,” said Johnson. “If the need arises, we will make the necessary applications for detention orders,” said Johnson.