Fri | Jan 21, 2022

King haircut ruling next week

Prosecutor exodus weighing down DPP’s office

Published:Thursday | December 9, 2021 | 12:11 AM
Nzinga King
Nzinga King

Jamaica’s chief prosecutor will rule next week on the fate of the cop accused of forcibly cutting the hair of a Rastafarian teenager while she was in custody at the Four Paths Police Station in Clarendon. The case - which dates back to July 22 and...

Jamaica’s chief prosecutor will rule next week on the fate of the cop accused of forcibly cutting the hair of a Rastafarian teenager while she was in custody at the Four Paths Police Station in Clarendon.

The case - which dates back to July 22 and has served as a flash point on police abuse - has stirred outrage over the treatment of the Afrocentric religious minority. It has also caused bafflement because the investigation has wended its way through the constabulary and the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) for almost six months.

Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn told The Gleaner on Wednesday that the complaint of 19-year-old Nzinga King has been assigned to two prosecutors for research and for the preparation of the legal opinion.

That assessment will dictate whether the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) will recommend that the police prefer criminal charges or disciplinary action.

Any ruling of the ODPP will not affect the complainant’s ability to pursue civil remedies.

Llewelyn said that her office has been suffering under the strain of staff shortages - since July - after several resignations this year. Renovations at her office have also caused displacement, she said.

“We are currently operating with about eight lawyers short of our required staff complement, and we also have a situation where we conduct the renovations, which have dragged on for some time longer than it was supposed to,” Llewellyn said.

Prosecutors are not all accommodated at the ODPP’s King Street office, with some working from home.

The typical turnaround for rulings is two weeks, depending on the complexity of the matter and whether further statements or materials were needed, the DPP said. INDECOM said on Wednesday that it had submitted the King file to prosecutors on November 11.

Llewellyn, who disclosed that the recruitment drive to fill the positions was under way, said that she herself was in her fifth straight week in court.

“We should get the eight persons completely by the end of January ... . Until we get the building completed, the renovation, I still am not able to house everybody under one roof,” Llewellyn said.

However, she said that the staff woes have not exacerbated the case backlog concerns that have long haunted the ODPP.

Llewellyn gave credit to her islandwide staff for giving full service to the courts and delivering on rulings throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“In fact, when I look at the published statistics every quarter, our figures are very good,” she said.

The Gleaner reported in September that the ODPP had been rocked by a prosecutor exodus, with at least five jumping ship in August.

The prosecutors reportedly expressed discontentment over poor wages, heavy workloads, and Llewellyn’s leadership style.

However, the DPP defended her stewardship while acknowledging the heavy workload, saying: “I make no apology for embracing the work ethic that I embrace. Anybody who does not wish to embrace that work ethic, they are free to go and to do something that is less taxing.”

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