Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has expressed concern over comments made by a High Court Judge in a case where a man from Beetham Gardens is claiming that he was unlawfully denied bail on his (Griffith) instructions after being charged with breaching COVID-19 public health regulations.
In a press release issued yesterday, in response to reports on Keston Jackie’s case, the Police Service Corporate Communications Unit claimed that the comments made by a judge, who was not identified in the release, could potentially prejudice the case.
“These predeterminations, as represented in the said articles, call into question the fairness of the current proceedings and the appropriateness of the alleged conduct of the said judicial officer as such assertions may reflect possible bias, particularly given the fact that the instant proceedings are at a nascent stage,” the release said.
While the release claimed that Griffith did not want to comment extensively on the case as it is still yet to be determined, it sought to still give some details on Jackie’s 37-hour stint in police custody after he was charged.
The release stated that when he was arrested as police raided a bar along the Eastern Main Road in San Juan on June 8, last year, he was in the company of 67 individuals included Port-of-Spain community leader Akedo “Sunday” Williams.
It claimed that after the group was detained, each individual had to be fingerprinted for checks to be made in the TTPS’ criminal record database.
“These steps were necessary as there were many persons, who had been arrested, who were suspected of nefarious criminal activity and were already under the watchful eye of the Police Service,” the release said.
It also denied allegations that there was a directive in relation to the group being granted station bail by a Justice of the Peace after they were charged.
“The Commissioner of Police is not unaware of the prevailing legislative regime and enshrined constitutional rights to bail, particularly the rights of individuals to bail themselves in relation to summary offences,” the release said, as it noted that the law on bail has checks and balances.
The release also claimed that the background checks on Jackie and the others’ were necessary before bail could be considered.
“In light of the above, the Commissioner of Police is of the view that the suggestion that the release of individuals without ascertaining their criminal history and the possibility of their absconsion would be grossly negligent,” it said.
According to the evidence filed by Jackie, after he was arrested for allegedly gathering with more persons than was allowed under ongoing public health regulations for the pandemic, he was detained for two days before being charged.
Jackie’s lawyer and the Justice of the Peace (JP) made two attempts for him to be granted bail but were repeatedly denied by police officers, who claimed that they received instructions from Griffith to not facilitate bail.
He was eventually granted bail after he threatened legal action.
Through the lawsuit, Jackie is seeking declarations that his rights were infringed and compensation for the inconvenience and loss he suffered.
During a preliminary hearing of the case, earlier this week, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad sought to highlight the importance of the case as he noted that it would help define the role of the police and JPs in granting bail for minor criminal offences.
“People have to understand the remit of their authority and bat within their crease,” Seepersad said, as he noted that he would have to carefully consider the evidence to determine if the instruction on bail had been in fact given by Griffith, as claimed by Jackie.
The case is expected to come up for hearing on May 10.