Court of Appeal Reverses the Earlier Judgement on INDECOM’s Powers

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In a judgement that could have far-reaching consequences, the Court of Appeal in Jamaica has passed a ruling that favours the Independent Commission of Investigations(INDECOM). The particular case in which the latest ruling has come about relates to disclosure of information under the INDECOM Act. Two policemen, belonging to the now-dismantled Mobile Reserve, had been under investigation for murder and other offences and they insisted through their legal counsel that the INDECOM should disclose to them the details of how the charges were framed on them. This was turned down by the Commission and they then approached the Court of Appeal.

Breakdown of the Case

The two accused policemen of the Mobile Reserve are Deputy Superintendent Everton Tabannah and Constable Worrell Latchman. Constable Latchman is accused of murder and Tabannah of having made a false statement to mislead INDECOM, which is punishable under the Act. The incident involves an operation carried out in Rose Heights in which someone was shot by the police. It is only after an investigation by INDECOM that the charges were brought against the officer. This is where the current situation had developed. The policemen engaged lawyers to delay the inevitable and make unreasonable demands which the Commission rejected. The lawyers managed to obtain an order from the Supreme Court in favour of the policemen. That was in 2016. Three years later, in 2019, the clock has been reversed by the Court of Appeal.

INDECOM Act’s Provisions Quite Clear

There are several issues involved in this case and that is why the latest judgement is crucial. The 2016 case involves human rights. The person killed by the police might have been a criminal but that did not give the police the right to kill him. Then there are the witness protection provisions in the INDECOM Act. When custodians of law, like policemen, are investigated, ordinary people are scared of giving evidence against them. Disclosing details of the policemen would have meant letting them know who spoke against them.

By this one ruling, the Court of Appeal has set a precedence for investigative agencies like INDECOM and others to collect authentic evidence to bring rogue elements in the society to justice. These ruling paves the way for many more cases to be taken up and possibly taken to their logical conclusions if they had also been struck down on similar grounds. It looks like justice will ultimately prevailed.

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