Ganja law ease in Jamaica

(Jamaica Observer) Security Minister Peter Bunting last night announced that cops can no longer arrest people for possession of a small amount of ganja but must, instead, serve them with summonses.

The announcement came just minutes after the constabulary announced that six cops had been suspended and interdicted for their role in the beating death of 31-yearold Mario Deane.

Bunting, in a release to the media, said he was in receipt of a memorandum from the Attorney General’s Chambers, and after discussions with Acting Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds, it was determined that the constabulary will apply the following guidelines to people charged with minor offences, such as possession of small quantities of ganja:

• Proceed by way of summons where a justice of the peace (JP) is available;

• If a JP is not available, or if the offender is unable to provide identification, or is unable to be identified by other means, he/she may be taken to a police station until identification can be verified. Once identification is verified, the person should be granted bail on his/her own recognisance; an

• If the offender is being investigated for other serious offences, persons will be given bail with conditions, or be remanded in custody.

Bunting said the Government was committed to making the necessary policy and legislative changes to avoid the recurrence of such a tragedy.

He said he was expecting a report from Hinds by Monday on new procedures for the care and protection of persons in police custody. Bunting had issued a directive demanding the report from the Police High Command last Thursday, hours after Deane had died in the Cornwall Regional Hospital.

The suspended cops were not named, but a release from the police force’s Corporate Communications Unit stated that they were two corporals, a constable and three district constables.

A cop is paid 75 per cent of his/her salary when he/she is interdicted.

Deane was arrested for possession of a ganja ‘spliff’ by cops in Montego Bay, St James last week Sunday, and was taken to the Barnett Street Police Station.

His bail was denied by a female cop after he allegedly expressed his dislike for the police.

A friend who had gone to the police station to bail him was instructed to return at 5:00 pm but grew suspicious and returned to the station at 3:00 pm, only to be informed that Deane had been taken to hospital.

He fell into a coma, never regained consciousness, and succumbed to his injuries while the nation was celebrating 52 years of Independence. The police had reported that Deane was allegedly beaten by prisoners in his cell, but the dead man’s family and community members accused the cops of lying and changing their story.

His relatives claim that the cops had told doctors at the hospital that Deane had fallen off a bunk. They said that a doctor had told them that, in his medical opinion, a fall could not have cause such serious injuries.

The matter is being investigated by the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM), whose Commissioner Terrence Williams indicated that someone is liable to be held culpable as better protection should have been given to Deane while he was in police custody.

Meanwhile, Hinds called for patience while the investigations continued. Two men — 25-year-old Adrian Morgan and 35-year-old Marvin Orr — have been charged with the murder of Deane and will appear before the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate’s Court today. The mother of one of the men has come out in defence of her son whom she said is mentally challenged. The other man is said to be a deaf mute.

Deane’s relatives have retained the services of attorney Miguel Lorne, who yesterday wrote to the Justice Minister Mark Golding and Attorney General Patrick Atkinson stating his clients’ intention to file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their relative and demanding the identities of:

• The officer who was in charge of the station at the material time;

• The cell guard who was responsible for the inmates;

• The arresting officer; and

• The woman cop who decided that she would extend Deane’s stay at the police station.

“We are also asking that the station dairies, the prisoners’ book, and/or crime diary be taken to your chambers for safe keeping, so that no attempt can be made at tampering, as there is the strong possibility that these and other documents may be needed as exhibits,” Lorne’s letter stated.


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