Gov't to appeal Supreme Court ruling on SOEs


Gov't to appeal Supreme Court ruling on SOEs

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte has signalled her intention to appeal the ruling of Supreme Court Judge Justice Bertram Morrison that the detention of five men under states of emergency (SOE) was unlawful.

In his written judgement last week, Justice Morrison stated that the men's constitutional rights and the constitution itself were being breached by their detention and the executive detention system.

He also stated that using detention orders for criminal offences was a breach.

“I have read the judgement of Justice Bertram Morrison. I believe that it raises many important questions of constitutional law and procedure and we will have to seek guidance from the Appeal Court on it. So, whatever views and comments I have, I believe will be reflected in the grounds of appeal [to be] filed in due course,” Malahoo Forte said.

“The issues of law that arise in the case are of such high public importance and [raise such] important constitutional questions that guidance from the higher courts will be required,” the attorney general added.

In July, Justice Morrison ruled that keeping Everton Douglas, Nicholas Heat, Courtney Hall, Courtney Thompson, and Gavin Noble in custody was a breach of their constitutional rights.

The men were held under SOEs in Kingston Eastern, St Andrew South, Westmoreland, and Clarendon.

At the time, some of them were in custody for more than a year without being charged with any crime.

They subsequently filed a habeas corpus application challenging their detention.

The SOEs were lifted last month, ahead of the September 3 General Election.

President of the Cornwall Bar Association, Lambert Johnson took pleasure in Morrison's ruling, arguing that the principle of seperation of powers is contravened when persons are detained by the police “without the intervention of the court”.

“Generally it [the ruling] is welcomed by the bar because the principles that [were] enunciated are things that we hold dear. For us, we always knew it was wrong for the police to detain persons without the intervention of the court because it breaches the long-established and hallowed principle of separation of powers,” Johnson said.

“So, when a minister is going to sign a detention order that can essentially have you in custody for many, many months that goes into years, it is in effect giving you a term of imprisonment without the benefit of a trial — and that is in essence the offensive nature of it.”

Both Johnson and the attorney general were speaking to reporters following Sunday's church service to mark the beginning of the Michaelmas term of the St James Circuit Court, held at St James Parish Church in Montego Bay.

The service was held under the theme: 'Upholding Justice in Uncertain Times' .

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