Bar Association rep decries imprisonment of woman on bail after reputed error by court official
Jamaica’s justice system is again under scrutiny following reports that a woman who has been on bail for the past six years waiting for the records of her case to be sent to the Court of Appeal was imprisoned last Tuesday, reportedly because of a court official’s error.
Calls are also being made by the relatives of 33-year-old Cutie Lovelock for Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck and Chief Justice Bryan Sykes to intervene in the matter so that the woman can be released to take care of her children. They have described the situation as a grave injustice to Lovelock.
“In 2015, the issue was outrageous, and eight years later, we are not in any better position. We are now at the stage where we don’t even have proper bail records,” said attorney-at-law Tamika Harris, who is the chairperson for the Criminal Law Committee for the Jamaican Bar Association.
“This is a sad day for justice and an even sadder day for our justice system. This is a serious indictment on our justice system,” Harris lamented.
Lovelock went to the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court last week Tuesday to check on the records when it was pointed out to her that there was a warrant of commitment for her to go to prison.
A relative said Lovelock explained that she was on bail pending the outcome of her appeal, but she was taken into custody and sent to prison.
Attorney-at-law Melrose Reid, who is representing Lovelock, said that although court officials are aware that an error was made, she has not been released.
Lovelock pleaded guilty in 2017 to unlawful wounding and was sentenced by then Parish Judge Judith Pusey to two years’ imprisonment. Lovelock gave both verbal and written notices of appeal and was granted bail pending the outcome of her appeal.
Reid, when contacted, disclosed that since 2017, she has been making regular checks about the records of Lovelock’s case, but to date, they have not been sent from the parish court to the Court of Appeal. She expressed shock that Lovelock was still in custody despite the fact that court officials have the record that she was granted bail. Reid said Lovelock is appealing on the basis that the sentence is manifestly excessive, but without the records, the appeal cannot proceed.
Commenting further, Harris said that “the issue of long overdue transcript continues to undermine the administration of justice in Jamaica”.
She pointed out that there was a plethora of cases where appellants have been released from prison without the opportunity to appeal the merits of their case. She said that recently, the attorney general conceded that the constitutional rights of former Police Constable Garfield Williston were breached when he had to wait for nine years to get the transcript of his trial for his appeal to be heard. She referred to the case of Tafari Williams in which the then president of the Court of Appeal said the delay of eight years in producing the transcript of his trial in the Gun Court was outrageous, and he was denied his right to a fair consideration of his application for leave to appeal.
“The issue of overdue transcript needs to be addressed with some level of urgency if we want to give the appearance that we indeed need to deliver ‘timely justice’. The saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is not just a cliche. The events leading up to the detention of a ‘bailed’ citizen is not just an unfortunate event. It is demonstration of disregard for the rights of the citizens and our eagerness to incarcerate,” Harris emphasised.
Harris said there was no guarantee that Lovelock’s transcript would be ready any time soon, and if steps are not taken to have her released, she may be “forced” to serve the sentence and never get the chance to be heard by the appellate court.