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Saturday 22 September 2018
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West wants limitsto detention period

JSC on Human Rights (fourth from left) PCA Director David West and (fifth from left) Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams get ready to answer questions on the the treatment of detainees and conditions at police station holding cells during their March 2 appearance before the Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity. PHOTO BY SASHA HARRINANAN.

POLICE Complaints Authority (PCA) Director David West is recommending there be “an upper and lower limit” on how police can detain a suspect before laying charges against them in court.

“We were in an outreach meeting in Arima (on March 1) and there were many calls from the public about their children being arrested and detained for three to four days.

Therefore, from where we sit, it would be beneficial if there were an upper and a lower limit of time where the police can detain persons before they charge them.” “That would give some sense of clarity to how long somebody can be kept, instead of this blurred answer of “We’re doing further enquiries.” What does that mean? If there was some set standard...that would benefit the public in knowing what their rights are, which is very important.”

West made his case on Friday during his appearance before Parliament’s Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity. The JSC’s March 2 meeting had two objectives - to determine the treatment of detainees and the conditions at police station holding cells.

The same question was put to Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams by committee chairman Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

Williams however saw no need for time limits on detention of suspects in police custody, saying emphasis is placed on “promptness” – laying charges within 24 hours of a suspect being detained.

“From a policing perspective, I would say no. The shape of the law, as it exists, is proper, with all the insulation and protection for individuals. It is clearly understood that in many instances, (detention) requires additional investigation.”

“And the courts give clear consideration to each individual case when issues of detention by police officers are considered not to be in keeping with the promptness I have spoken about. But if we just put into law a fixed number of hours, it may not necessarily be serving our country in the best way. So from my position, I would say no,” Williams argued.

Regarding allegations of abuse while someone is being detained by police, West called for the installation of CCTV cameras “in strategic positions in all police stations, including holding cells.”

Noting that the predecessor PCA had made this recommendation to former Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs “during the period 2011 to 2012,” West told the JSC that finally doing so benefit police and detainees alike.

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