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