A reasonable assessment by the court
Senior Justice Jon Isaacs has issued a ruling that has significant implications for the electronic monitoring system. He has ruled that officials responsible for tracking people out on bail with ankle bracelets have no authority to impose additional restrictions on accused criminals without further court approval.
The ruling came after Melvin Maycock Sr. (who has since been convicted on drug and firearms charges) applied to have his ankle bracelet removed because of repeated interference from personnel at the Electronic Monitoring Center (EMC).
During an application, Maycock said he was ordered to return to the mainland while in a dinghy off Potter’s Cay on June 18, 2011. He went to the Central Police Station, where officers from the Drug Enforcement Unit arrested him. Maycock was detained at the station for two days and was only released after he agreed to conditions set by an Inspector Lightfoot and another man regarding his mobility.
“While a person may consent to limitations placed on his freedom of movement it ought not be done in circumstances where the individual has already been the subject of limitations imposed by the court,” said Isaacs in the recent ruling.
“He ought not to have to surrender more of his rights to secure his freedom, particularly when the court did not see fit to specifically impose the conditions on him in the first place.”
Maycock, who was tagged with a monitoring device and ordered to report daily to the Central Police Station, asked the court to remove the bracelet because of the repeated interference.
He made the application to modify the terms of his bail conditions on July 21.
Isaacs did not order the removal of the bracelet. However, he decided to give a written ruling on the powers of the monitoring center because of the novelty and importance of the matter. The government launched the electronic monitoring program in November 2010.
Jomo Campbell, who represented Maycock, said the staff of the EMC repeatedly told him he had left his restricted zone and he had been forced to return home under threats of police action. “The interference with an individual’s liberty is a grave step which is not to be taken lightly. The decision to detain an individual must be taken with due regard for the law. Failure to have such regard leaves the person detaining, liable to an action for false imprisonment.”
Isaacs said the Crown had to request the court order that additional restrictions be placed on bail applicants fitted with ankle bracelets.
Police and the monitoring center should have known that they do not have the power to add on their own conditions to court orders. Individuals have constitutional rights to liberty. When these liberties are curtailed that process must be undertaken via the law and the court.
People out on bail are not guilty of crimes. They are merely accused. The government is attempting to toughen its response to crime due to the high rate of violence this year. A record 114 people have been murder in 2011.
Police and the government have said there is a problem with repeat offenders wreaking havoc. The key here is to ensure that when a problematic person is charged, that person should be prosecuted quickly and effectively. If this is done and there is a high conviction rate due to good case preparation and quality prosecution, there would be fewer people on bail.
Police and those at the monitoring center should carefully review the judge’s decision. The state must also continue to work to ensure its prosecution system is improved.