Pubdate: Tue, 17 May 2016
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2016 The Gleaner Company Limited


UNLIKE MARIO Deane, Donnasha Dobson is happily alive and presumably, 
enjoying good health and, personal freedom.

Yet, Ms Dobson's case, reported on in this newspaper a week ago, is 
one that the police chief, the justice and security ministers, and 
the Office of the Public Defender ought to have had under review  and 
should do, if they didn't  although the latter body might possibly 
claim that it falls outside its mandate.

An important context to this case, ironically, was highlighted last 
week in the significant public discussion over the proposed 
regulations to govern the cannabis industry following the 
legalisation of the industrial-scale growing of marijuana for 
medicinal and other products. The possession of small amounts of 
marijuana for personal use and the smoking of the drug in public has 
been decriminalised.

These are matters that were on Jamaica's agenda for decades, but 
legislation towards their actual implementation was fast-tracked in 
the face of the Mario Deane affair in August 2014. Mr Deane was 31  a 
construction worker on his way to his job when he was arrested for a 
small amount of ganja. He didn't make it out of the Montego Bay 
lock-up alive after his family, for days, knew nothing of his whereabouts.

The police initially claimed that Mario Deane was beaten to death by 
two inmates, both of whom, quite unfortunately, or fortuitously, 
happened to suffer from physical and mental disabilities. Eventually, 
police personnel, too, were charged for his death.

The upshot from Mario Deane's murder was the policy that no one 
arrested for such dabs of ganja that he possessed should linger in 
lockup. They should receive station bail. Thereafter followed the law 
that possession of up to two ounces of marijuana was a ticketable, 
rather than an arrestable, offence.

In January of this year, Ms Dobson, 27, was arrested on the compound 
of the Linstead Police station. She was initially accused of 
attempting to smuggle items to someone being detained there. She said 
she had gone, about a job in a bar.


The fact, though, is that she was arrested and spent 21 days in jail 
before being taken to a parish court, where she was bailed for 
J$6,000. The incredulous charge: possession of three ounces of 
marijuana, or just above the amount for which she should have been 
issued with a ticket to pay a fine at a tax office.

In any event, based on the policy, Ms Dobson should have spent no 
time in lock-up; she should have received station bail, freed on her 
own recognisance. Instead, she was added to the overcrowding in 
Jamaica's clogged lock-ups, where, fortuitously, she didn't meet the 
fate of Mario Deane.

But Ms Dobson suffered a more fundamental wrong: a breach of her 
right, under Section 14 (a) (i) and (ii) of the Constitution, in the 
case of an arrest, "to be brought forthwith, or as soon as is 
reasonably practicable, before an officer authorised by law, or the 
court; and released either unconditionally or upon reasonable 
conditions to secure ... attendance at the trial or at any other 
stage of the proceedings".

Three weeks, in the circumstance, is hardly "forthwith" or 
"reasonably practicable" time. Ms Dobson deserves redress. Moreover, 
the impunity of the authorities implied in this case breeds disregard 
for law and order, undermines respect for the Jamaican State and 
weakens its authority.
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