The London-based Privy Council has upheld an appeal by the human rights group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), challenging the decision of the Police Service Commission (PSC) to promote a former police officer despite allegations of his involvement in extra-judicial killings.
In its ruling, the Privy Council, the island’s highest court, acknowledged however that the ruling was “academic” since Senior Superintendent Delory Hewitt has since retired.
The PSC had promoted Hewitt from superintendent to Senior Superintendent in 2011 and the JFJ had asked that the PSC should have made it a duty to ensure that allegations of extrajudicial killings against such an officer are fully and independently investigated before accepting a recommendation that he be promoted.
The PSC had sought a review of the allegations from the Commissioner of Police, who forwarded a brief report prepared by the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) of the Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF). But the PSC did not send the report to JFJ and later issued a claim for judicial review, seeking to quash the PSC’s decision to recommend Supt Hewitt for promotion and to require it to conduct an effective and impartial investigation into the allegations of misconduct against him.
Before the Court of Appeal the focus had shifted to requiring the PSC to cause such an investigation to be undertaken by INDECOM, the independent complaints commission set up under the Commission of Investigations Act 2010. The claims failed in the courts below.
Lady Hale, who read the ruling of the Privy Council, noted that the purpose of setting up the PSC under section 129 of the Constitution of Jamaica is to insulate the JCF from political influence.
She said when recommending officers for promotion, the PSC is governed by the Police Service Regulations 1961, which allow the PSC to consult with any public officer it considers proper and desirable and require the attendance of witnesses or production of documents.
It has the power to call for a report from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).
But she noted that the issue is whether there is any duty, either at common law or under the Constitution, to make that inquiry before making a decision.