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Volume 11 Number 4
New Delhi, Winter 2004

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied - The Janice Allen Case
Dr Carolyn Gomes
Executive Director, Jamaicans for Justice

In April 2000, a 13-year-old girl, Janice Allen, was killed by a bullet from a policeman's gun. In March 2004, a jury was instructed to return a formal verdict of 'Not Guilty' against the policeman charged with her murder.

The policeman was charged in 2001 and a Preliminary Inquiry was held that lasted a year and a half. The Magistrate ruled that a 'prima facie' case had been established and the case was sent to the Supreme Court for trial. After almost four years of delays, during which police and civilians threatened Janice's family and eyewitnesses, the actual trial (including the time for the empanelling of the jury) lasted less than one hour.

At the trial the Prosecutor said that three crucial pieces of evidence linking the policeman to the gun, which fired the fatal shot, were not available. The firearms register recording the issuing of the gun was reportedly burnt in a fire at Denham Town Police Station. The Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) officer who took the policeman's statement, in which he admitted firing the gun, had left the jurisdiction and was unavailable to testify. The eyewitness identification of the policeman took place not in an identification parade, but in the witness box of the Preliminary Inquiry and was therefore invalid. The prosecutor told the court that therefore he could offer no evidence. The judge then instructed the jury to return a not guilty verdict.

Subsequently, the Commissioner of Police said publicly that the court had been misled when it was told that the investigating officer would not be returning to Jamaica, as in fact he had returned and was on duty. The Commissioner promised to investigate the circumstances surrounding the misleading of the court. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) also issued a statement saying that the prosecutor in the case had acted improperly in proceeding with the case.

The issues in this case highlight glaring faults in Jamaica's investigative and prosecutorial processes that allow impunity for killings by the police - the failure to safeguard vital evidence, the failure to hold ID parades when police are involved, the long delays in the inquiry and trial process.

Janice's mother is seeking judicial review of the acquittal of the accused. Her lawyers are asking the court to issue a writ of Certiorari quashing the acquittal, and to issue a declaration that the trial was a nullity. The court is asked to rule that the acquittal was obtained by means of a fraud upon the Office of the DPP and upon the court. The lawyers are claiming that the administration of Justice was perverted.

The devastation that Janice's death has caused to her family and to the fabric of the nation is irreversible. The balm of justice has been denied to the society because of incompetent investigation and unconscionable delays and mistakes in the prosecution of this case.

Jamaicans for Justice is a non-profit, non-partisan non-violent, volunteer citizens' rights action group, founded in 1999. It advocates for fundamental change in all spheres of Jamaican life - judicial, economic, social and political - in order to improve the lives of Jamaican citizens.

JFJ believes that justice is the bedrock of any civilised and progressive society, and all Jamaicans must have equal access to fair, correct and impartial treatment.

Jamaicans for Justice is part of the Commonwealth Human Rights Network.


CHRI Newsletter, Winter 2004

Editors: Vaishali Mishra & Clare Doube, CHRI;
Design: Print: Anshu Tejpal, Electronic: Jyoti Bhargava, CHRI; Web Developer: Swayam Mohanty, CHRI.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to all contributors

Copyright Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

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The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent international NGO mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth.