Mario Deane: A Victim of Brutal Police Detention Conditions

Administrator on September 1, 2014, 8:36 am 513 3
Mario Deane: A Victim of Brutal Police Detention Conditions

The beating death of Mario Deane, a 31 year old man accused of possession of a "spliff", on August 6 and the howls of protest that followed, have turned the spotlight on the conditions under which persons are held in detention and their treatment with regards to bail. Arising from this incident, a number of things have happened - six police officers have been interdicted and suspended from duty, the Minister of National Security had announced a change in police procedures in relation to possession of small amounts of ganja, two men - a schizophrenic and a mentally ill man have been arrested, and a third man - a deaf mute was questioned for this same incident.

The Minister of National Security also called for new procedures for addressing the care and protection of persons in the custody of the police. These new procedures are far overdue as there are sufficient records of the seriously inhumane conditions under which accused persons are placed into police lockups (remember Agana Barrett?). An island wide audit of police lockups has also been ordered by the Minister of National Security. The grieving family of Mr. Deane is searching for answers to the conflicting stories that have been told about the circumstances surrounding the death, and the mother of one of the accused, twenty-five-year old Adrian Morgan, is crying foul.

While advocates for the ganja law reform have claimed a connection between the death of Mr. Deane and the call for decriminalisation of ganja, the real story is how easy it is for a police officer to abort a bail process and return an accused to overcrowded and hostile cells to meet his death. The Independent Commission for Investigations (INDECOM) continues its investigations. It has its hands full, what with the many other cases of police excesses it is probing. The sad truth is that even if the island wide audit of police lockups reveals what Jamaicans already know, that most cells are poorly built, poorly ventilated, and very overcrowded, and that everyone placed in them are at grave personal risk, the Government of Jamaica will be hard pressed to find the required funds to build new and modern detention facilities without help from international development partners.

The matter of bail should also be examined and cannot be swept under the rug. Legally, a person arrested and charged with an offence should be afforded the opportunity for bail very quickly, within 24 hours. The fact that Mr Deane was being processed for bail when he allegedly made a remark that triggered an alleged retaliation on the part of the female police officer presents another set of scenarios that could have ended differently had the officer in question not aborted the process and caused Mr. Deane to return to those cells. The trial may bring answers to the many questions surrounding this case. Until then, Jamaicans watch with keen interest to learn the real truth about the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Deane, and whether there was negligence by the police who returned him to the hellish cells occupied by at least one person who has been confirmed as mentally unstable. In the end, what happened to Mr. Deane can be linked squarely to police excesses against someone in custody, an abuse of the bail process, rather than merely an arrest for ganja. This is also a heinous human rights breach for which the right persons should be held accountable.

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