So says the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner who is reminding Jamaicans that legal representation is the right of every citizen.
“The fact that you are unable to retain an attorney privately should not be to your detriment. If the police do not advise you that you are entitled to an attorney, you can make the request,” said Faulkner.
He was outlining the legal rights of persons, who come into contact with the law, during a JIS Think Tank on Thursday.
The Legal Aid Executive Director noted that the police, as law enforcement agents, may question anyone, whom they reasonably suspect is involved in criminal activity. However he cautioned that a citizen is entitled to an attorney to be questioned.
He informed that a list of available attorneys in each parish has been provided to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), which should be provided on request.
He said that while Justices of the Peace (JPs) play an important role in the justice system, including visiting lockups and giving authorization for a person to be remanded, “for question and answer with the police, it is an attorney that must be present to represent a citizen.”
Mr. Faulkner also noted that each citizen must have a chance to speak privately to counsel.
“A police officer may be within sight of that dialogue, but not in hearing. When a lawyer is present, it safeguards provisions of law, additionally, an attorney will ensure that where the suspect is a child their parent/guardian is present, if he/ she is to be questioned,” he said.
The mission of the LAC is to ensure that an efficient legal aid system is available to the people of Jamaica.
Persons seeking legal advice, or are in need of legal aid, may contact the Kingston Legal Aid Clinic at 131 Tower Street, telephone 922-3761; or the Montego Bay Legal Aid Clinic at 42B Union Street, telephone 952-2183.
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