Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson recently made a plea for men to come forward and help with tackling crime and violence in Barbados. This is because some of our school children appear to be out of control.
Please allow me the opportunity to share with the people of Barbados and the Caribbean my concern as to why there is such an increase in violence, in particular gun violence. There are two points I would like to make.
Firstly, Barbados and the Caribbean have a history of violence against black people and there has never been an instituted plan of action to address the lingering pain of that history.
However, there is hope. The public needs to know that the National Task Force on Reparations has made a number of recommendations in its report, now before Government, that, if implemented, will address many of the concerns, the lingering pain and respond to the violence and crime. Our young people need to know their history and embrace who they are.
Secondly, there is a serious mischarge of justice in keeping persons on remand for long periods of time. It affects them mentally and also impacts negatively on their relatives and associates, causing anger and pain. Some of the persons so detained are troubled by the mischarges of justice and human rights violations, and have warned that if this is not addressed it could fuel increased violence and crime in our region.
Personally I can make reference to a number of cases where young men are held on remand for years, during which time they became very angry. However, in this article I will refer to only one such case involving a Jamaican national, who came to Barbados on a work permit. Shortly thereafter he was arrested, charged and detained at HMP Dodds.
He was on remand for over seven years before he was granted bail on his own recognizance. There are aspects of his case that I will not disclose at this point. However, as a human rights and social justice advocate, I was approached for advice in bringing public attention to his case. He convinced me of his innocence and asked if my human rights organization – the Non-State Actors Reparations Commission – could assist him. I said I would discuss the matter at our next committee meeting. However, he was subsequently re-arrested on another charge. I therefore paid no further attention to his case. This was until I received an invitation to visit him in prison.
For the past four years I have been visiting the Jamaican, who is on remand. I did not realize the impact my visits had on this young man until other inmates who are also on remand started contacting me, inviting me to visit them. Because of my personal experience of being unjustly incarcerated in England and my human rights activism I responded to all requests from the inmates. Presently there are some 12 inmates claiming that their rights are being violated. Over the years they gave me the nickname ‘the human rights man’.
Subsequently the charges relating to the Jamaican for which he had spent over seven years on remand were dropped and he was offered bail on the present charges. However, he had difficulties getting someone to stand bail for him because he is a foreign national. It took him over 19 months before someone did agree to stand his bail. I was very happy for this young man and expected to hear that he was out of prison. However, I was surprised to learn in November 2017 when I received a request to visit him, that he was not given bail. On Monday, December 11, 2017, I visited the accused and I was informed that on November 15 – the date set for signing his bail – he, his attorney and the person standing surety received a shock when the judge took it upon herself (without notice) to increase his bail on the spot. As a result, he was sent back to HMP Dodds, where he has now spent over 11 years on remand for two charges on which he made a bold claim of his innocence.
I found the ruling by the judge very disturbing and because I had previously written to the Chief Justice on the matter of remand prisoners, including the Jamaican, I immediately wrote to him again to inquire if the action by this judge was a normal practice or is this man being victimized!
It is my opinion that this action by the judge and the continuous long periods of detention on remand is a violation of his rights. I am troubled as to if the practice of keeping persons on remand for many years is justified. Those inmates I have been visiting over the years in particular, those who are foreign nationals have taught me a great lesson and have reminded me of the injustice we people of African descent experienced in England during the 1960s to 1980s and what we are presently experiencing in the USA.
I have been a human rights advocate for the past 40 years and I am a member of the committee for the National Task Force on Reparations (TFoR). The TFoR has completed a five year report, which is now before Government. My view is if our Caribbean leaders are seeking reparatory justice from others, we must do justice to our own. Having our young men incarcerated on remand for years is not right. How do you justify keeping a young man on remand for seven years and then dropping all charges? I therefore call on the media to investigate and report to the public on the reasons why our young men are kept on remand for such long periods. Justice delayed is justice denied. The Jamaican, whose case I presented above, should be released on his own recognizance or his trial date should be set.
Rev. Buddy Larrier