Wed | Feb 8, 2023

LIPS SEALED

Police may use INDECOM Act to compel cop in Donna-Lee disappearance to give statement

Published:Tuesday | July 19, 2022 | 12:17 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer
Regina Richards, a friend of Donna-Lee Donaldson, holds up a poster of the former ‘876 Roommates’ host who has been missing since last Wednesday.
Regina Richards, a friend of Donna-Lee Donaldson, holds up a poster of the former ‘876 Roommates’ host who has been missing since last Wednesday.

The district constable at the centre of a love triangle and the disappearance of social-media star Donna-Lee Donaldson may be compelled by the police force to give a statement despite her reported resistance to tell what she knows. Prominent...

The district constable at the centre of a love triangle and the disappearance of social-media star Donna-Lee Donaldson may be compelled by the police force to give a statement despite her reported resistance to tell what she knows.

Prominent criminal attorney Peter Champagnie said the Jamaica Constabulary Force might leverage the INDECOM Act to force her to talk.

The district constable, who has been identified only as Ms Smith, is a partner of Constable Noel Maitland, with whom she shares a child.

Maitland, who is the boyfriend of Donaldson, is also under the microscope as the 24-year-old was last reportedly seen at his New Kingston apartment.

During a press conference on Monday, Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey confirmed that the woman cop “was approached and she has refused to give a statement and we will deal with that at the appropriate time ...”.

Without outlining a specific course of action, Bailey said further: “It is an investigation that is ongoing and there are methods that we can deploy to deal with that issue.”

Those “methods”, Champagnie said, are likely to come into play as police and soldiers are in a “special category” with regard to the provision of statements.

“In the act governing INDECOM, there is a provision under their statute where they can compel a member of the police force to give a statement, and if they fail to give a statement, they can be charged,” the Queen’s Counsel said in a Gleaner interview.

Section 21(1) of the INDECOM Act 2010 stipulates that “the commission may, at any time, require any member of the security forces, a specified official, or any other person who, in its opinion, is able to give assistance in relation to an investigation under this act to furnish a statement of such information and produce any document or thing in connection with investigation that may be in the position or under the control of that member, official or other person.”

Champagnie said, however, that the circumstances differ when a police officer is a suspect under investigation.

“It is different if the person in question is what they would call a concerned officer or a suspect. In that situation, it still obtains, but you can’t compel an individual to say things that are incriminating to him or her, but they can be compelled to give a statement,” he said.

The answers given according to that statutory obligation, however, may not be as explicit as the interviewer desires, Champagnie warned.

Champagnie added that a police officer may also be subject to internal disciplinary action if he or she is found to impede the furtherance of an investigation. This would only apply if the officer in question is directly connected with carrying out the investigation.

“Once you are being put up as a concerned officer or as a suspect, then the right in terms of self-incrimination would kick in,” he said.

The developments from Monday’s press conference added complexity to the ongoing case involving the missing social-media influencer.

It was confirmed that Smith is stationed at the Half-Way Tree Police Station.

Maitland, who is himself stationed at Constant Spring, arrived at the St Andrew North Division within the last year.

One of his responsibilities included transporting criminals from the police station to the courthouse. The Gleaner has also learned that Maitland, who goes by the moniker ‘Noel Onetime’, often accompanies dancehall artistes such as Jahshii to stage shows as part of their entourage.

Maitland was questioned by investigators on Friday along with prospective witnesses. On Friday, his apartment was processed by crime-scene investigators, while on Monday the vehicles of Maitland and Smith were examined by forensic experts.

No person of interest has been identified as yet although police are in the process of scouring more than 20 hours of CCTV footage.

Bailey emphasised that the investigation has been expanded beyond the initial missing person report, adding that all possibilities are being examined.

“We are looking at theories but will not disclose those. We have broadened our investigation. We are looking not just at the person going to the apartment but we are looking far beyond that.

“That is as far as I can go at this time,” he said.

Since the start of the year, 850 people have been reported missing: 306 males and 544 females.

To date, 555 persons have been returned – 176 males and 379 females. Two hundred and seventy-one people remain unaccounted for. That includes 109 males and 162 females.

Twenty-one men and three women have been reported dead.

Of the 527 children reported missing this year, 436 were girls and 91 boys. Currently, 167 children have not been found. None of the missing children have been reported dead.

david.salmon@gleanerjm.com