Golding urges House not to block cops from seeking redress
Opposition Leader Mark Golding on Tuesday again urged government lawmakers not to bar aggrieved police officers from seeking redress from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) after the agency took steps to prosecute them without the backing of the law.
The caution by Golding eventually caused Justice Minister Delroy Chuck to suspend the debate for the second time in less than a month.
Government and opposition lawmakers have been divided on whether the Parliament should pass the Independent Commission of Investigations (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which would indemnify and validate the actions of members of the police oversight body between 2010 and 2013.
On Tuesday, Chuck told his fellow parliamentarians that INDECOM prosecuted 18 cases involving police personnel during the period.
According to Chuck, “While approving the validation, if one of the 18 police officers who were charged or prosecuted can demonstrate that it was not done in good faith and they can prove [this] to the court of law, they would still have a cause of action.”
During deliberations for the second time at the committee stage, Chuck said because most of the acts were done by “honest, good-faith interpretation of the act”, the Parliament should validate until the contrary was proven.
The justice minister said the position of the Government was that the commissioner and his staff carried out their duties in good faith. However, he said that if it can be demonstrated that in a few cases, the actions amounted to “bad faith” and, therefore, triggered legal action, the Government was willing to look at it.
However, Golding questioned whether Parliament should be intervening and extinguishing the rights of police officers who were wrongfully prosecuted by INDECOM in the first place.
He indicated that Parliament’s intervention would effectively prevent a possible claimant from taking out a lawsuit for being dragged before the court by agents of the State with no power to prosecute.
“We are, in effect, giving INDECOM and its employees a statutory defence to any liability for that,” said Golding.
He urged parliamentarians to allow the court to adjudicate those matters that might be brought by police officers who felt they had been treated unjustly.
Commenting on Section 7(3) of the bill, which refers to “arrests executed and prosecutions initiated or conducted in good faith”, Golding questioned who has the burden of proof in relation to good faith.
He argued that the burden of proof should rely on the defendant to show that they were acting in good faith.