Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Bunting did not grant immunity 'from trial' to JDF soldiers – PNP

Peter Bunting

Peter Bunting

The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) is insisting that certificates issued by Peter Bunting when he was Minister of National Security in 2016, did not grant immunity from trial, to three Jamaica Defence Force soldiers now before the courts for murder.

Bunting issued the certificates some six years after the soldiers – Corporal Odel Buckley, Lance Corporal Greg Tingling and Private Arnold Henry - were implicated in the May, 2010 murder of businessman Keith Clarke and four years after they were indicted  by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn.

When Paul Beswick, the attorney representing the three men appeared before High Court judge, Justice Glen Brown last week Monday, he presented the certificates and declared that his clients were granted immunity from trial. Last Wednesday, Justice Brown, halted the trial and set the matter for mention in the Full Court on September 17 for a decision to be made on the way forward.

But, according to the PNP in a news release, no such immunity was granted by Bunting. It said no certificates of immunity were issued by the former Minister.

Rather, the party said Bunting merely certified that the soldiers were acting in good faith and within the scope of the mission of the security forces under the state of emergency at the time.

Clarke was killed at his Kirkland Close home in Red Hills, Upper St Andrew after JDF personnel, “acting on intelligence” went there in search of the country’s then most wanted fugitive, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. The chartered accountant was shot 21 times to the back and died inside the home he shared with his wife and daughter.

Opposition spokesperson on justice, Senator Donna Scott Mottley in the news release, stated that it was during the Bruce Golding government, which included at least nine current Cabinet Ministers, that Parliament brought into effect the Emergency Powers (No 10) Regulations of 2010, which, according to Section 45 (1), gave immunity from prosecution to any member of the security forces for “acts done in good faith in the exercise of (their) functions for public safety”.

Scott Mottley argued that it was incontrovertible that Clarke's death occurred during a security forces operation — involving military intelligence and equipment, including helicopters, lorries and personnel carriers — and that the three JDF officers charged are of low rank.

At the time of the operation, the Minister of National Security was Dwight Nelson. However, the DPP 's ruling that the soldiers should be charged came after the change of government.

 “It is only because of this that Mr Bunting became involved and certified that the acts of the soldiers charged were done “in good faith in the exercise of (their) functions as members of the security forces for public safety, the restoration of order, the preservation of peace and in the public interest”, as required by the 2010 regulations,” explained Scott Mottley.

She said neither former minister Bunting, nor any minister, can grant immunity from criminal charges, only the law of the country can, explaining that it is only the DPP who can end criminal prosecutions.

Meanwhile, Scott-Mottley said it was time for the public to be informed of the grave consequences of the declaration of states of emergency and suggested that Parliament considers whether such declarations are the answer to day-to-day crime fighting as SOEs indemnify the security forces and remove the role of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

She noted that the emergency powers regulations for the current state of emergency in St James and St Catherine North have an identical Section 45(1) providing immunity to the security forces.

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