Sun | Jan 26, 2020

Cop: No handcuffs were necessary for Reid - Attorney agrees restraints only required for high threat level, flight risk

Published:Sunday | October 27, 2019 | 12:25 AMKaryl Walker - Gleaner Writer
Tamika Harris

Some members of the public were up in arms recently at what seemed to be preferential treatment handed out to former government minister Ruel Reid and his four co-accused in the corruption scandal enveloping the Ministry of Education and the Caribbean Maritime University, after they were led into court without being placed in the handcuffs usually seen on detainees.

However, there are no direct policy procedures listed in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) book of rules that state that persons must be handcuffed when being taken to court.

Careful perusal of the Lock Up Administration Policy and the Prisoner Transport Administration Policy of the JCF reveals that no such rule exists.

A senior cop who spoke with The Sunday Gleaner said the threat level of the persons being taken before the courts while in police custody must be assessed and the decision taken whether to use restraints.

Charged along with Reid are his wife, Sharen; daughter, Sharelle; Professor Fritz Pinnock, president of the Caribbean Maritime University; and Kim Brown-Lawrence, councilor for the Brown’s Town division in the St Ann Municipal Corporation.

“It’s always about assessing if a person in custody will pose a danger to others or try to escape custody. We do not always handcuff persons in our custody as a hard and fast rule,” said the cop, who requested anonymity.

When Reid and his co accused appeared in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court earlier this month, mouths were agape after three inmates were taken into court handcuffed together minutes before Reid and company entered free of restraints.

Underbelly of society

They were, however, surrounded by a throng of cops.

“Persons like Ruel Reid and his co-accused may not have posed any threat of escape or any danger to others. In addition to that, he is hardly likely to try and make a run for it. Where would he hide? He is easily recognisable, unlike some other inmates who can sink into the underbelly of society, change their appearance, and pose a serious challenge to be recaptured. Many of them have committed violent crimes and have proven that when they are on the road they pick up where they left off,” the cop said.

The cop also noted that a recent review of the JCF human rights policy determined that greater emphasis must be placed on protecting the human rights of persons in custody.

Under the law, persons who commit a crime using a weapon or menace are more likely to receive longer custodial sentences in comparison to those who commit fraudulent acts without menace or violent intimidation. In some cases, persons who commit fraud are ordered to make restitution and are fined heavily by the courts without being slapped with prison time.

Attorney-at-law Tamika Harris agreed with the cop’s explanation for the lack of restraints, but also noted that she has witnessed accused persons from the lower economic bracket being brought to court without restraints.

“The police have assessed the risk factor involved and they have formed the view that it is unlikely that some persons would abscond or cause harm,” Harris told The Sunday Gleaner.

During Reid and company’s time before the judge, the courtroom was cleared of members of the public and only the media and relatives and supporters of the accused were allowed to witness proceedings.