The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act is being strengthened with a bill to this effect set to be debated in parliament.
Justice Minister, Delroy Chuck, who is piloting a bill to amend the Act through the House of Representatives, explains that the prospective legislation also seeks to indemnify and validate certain actions, done in good faith by the Commission and its staff.
In tabling the bill in the House yesterday (May 10), Minister Chuck advised it also seeks to “indemnify the Commission, the Commissioner and the employees of the Commission for arrests executed and prosecutions initiated or conducted in good faith, during the period July 29, 2010 to March 16, 2018.”
The amendments to the Act being sought will among other things provide for the sharing of information with specific bodies, such as, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force and allow a member of the Security Forces, authorized by the Commission to serve a summons on any member of the Security Forces or a specified official.
Expanding powers of the Act
In addition, the amendment will expand the provisions relating to delegation under the Act and allow the Commission to initiate or continue an investigation, notwithstanding that criminal proceedings are under way. Minister Chuck advised the parliament that the amendments have been in the pipeline for quite some time now recalling that in 2015, a Joint Select Committee of Parliament established the INDECOM Act and its operations.
The Report of the Joint Select Committee’s Review of the Act included several amendments, some of which have been incorporated in the bill . Chuck pointed to the fact that certain provisions of the Act were being challenged in court, as such Cabinet thought it prudent to await the outcome of the case prior to implementing the recommended amendments to the Act.
From its inception, INDECOM operated on the premise that it had powers to arrest, charge and prosecute members of the security forces, until in 2013 when the Jamaica Police Federation challenged this practice in full court. After this, it ceased this practice. The case went up to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which in 2020, affirmed the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the Commission did not have such powers to arrest, charge and prosecute.
The decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council brought to the fore the need to validate and indemnify the disclosure of information done in good faith by the Commission, the Commissioner and employees. Also the ruling highlighted the need to indemnify the Commission, the Commissioner and the employees of the Commission for arrests executed and prosecutions initiated or conducted in good faith for the period July 29, 2010, the date when the work of the Commission begun, and March 16, 2018, the date of the decision of the Court of Appeal.
Chuck told the parliament that “the remaining amendments to the INDECOM Act outlined in the Report of the Joint Select Committee, save and except those that will no longer be pursued, will be introduced to the House after further consideration by Cabinet.”