Tue | Jul 7, 2020

‘Tragic and heartbreaking’ - PM comments on Noel Chambers who died after 40 years behind bars without trial

Published:Saturday | June 6, 2020 | 12:24 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

REACTING TO the national outcry over the death of Noel Chambers, who spent 40 years in prison without a trial, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, last evening, said nobody should be lost in the penal system.

The prime minister took the stance while speaking at a digital media briefing yesterday to update the country on the coronavirus and decisions taken by the Government to gradually ease restrictions in various areas of national life.

Commenting on the injustice meted out to Chambers, the prime minister said, “It is my position that no one should be lost in the penal system and certainly that anyone who has served more than 35 years should be considered for release”.

He said that the Noel Chambers matter was only brought to his attention this week.

“That is both tragic and heartbreaking and I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family. This tragedy is undoubtedly ranked amongst the most dreadful inheritances of a penal and judicial system that are in urgent need of reform,” Holness said.

He said that the Ministry of National Security has commenced a comprehensive audit into the circumstances leading up to Chambers’ passing.

“A key component of this audit will be a detailed multi-agency examination of the loopholes that may exist across the systems in order to ensure that we remedy any likelihood of this situation repeating itself.”

According to Holness, this unfortunate situation must result in a complete and comprehensive overview and overhaul of the system to treat with persons in custody in general and those with mental and physiological conditions.

While having to contend with the shortcoming of the Jamaican state and the public outcry, especially in recent times on justice and human rights, Holness said the happenings in the US surrounding George Floyd have not escaped notice of his Government.

Holness said, “I am also very sensitive and extremely concerned by similar injustices here in Jamaica. Our Constitution and our charter of rights guarantee the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in the execution of a sentence of a court …”.

The prime minister mentioned Susan Bogle and Jodian Fearon who both died under questionable circumstances.

Fearon died at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) on April 25, six hours after delivering her baby at the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine while, Bogle, a member of the disabled community, was shot and killed last Wednesday at her home in August Town allegedly by a member of the Jamaica Defence Force.