Questions are being asked about why prison officers barred a lawyer from seeing convicted killer Gideon Jackson who was recently granted a remission on the remainder of his sentence, only to have it revoked soon afterwards by the same official who authorized it, Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin.
Lawyer Charlesworth Tabor is one of those asking such questions after prison officers denied him access to Jackson on Wednesday when he went to enquire about representing the inmate who, after his remission was rescinded, was returned to the Coronation Road jail to serve the rest of his time.
Tabor said he respects that the prison has rules, but those rules should not breach the rights of a prisoner who is entitled to legal advice.
“They said that I am not his attorney; he hasn’t filed an appeal, so I was refused permission to see Mr. Jackson. To me that is pure nonsense. Once a lawyer fills out a form to see an inmate, he should see the inmate … In fact, Mr. Gideon Jackson, as far as I’m aware, does not have a lawyer.”
The attorney said the injustice would not go unchallenged. He said he will be approaching the recently-appointed Superintendent of Prisons, Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Philip, to discuss the issue which was raised by other attorneys some months ago. OBSERVER media tried unsuccessfully to reach the prison chief.
Tabor is adamant that, “Once you have filled out the visitor form that’s it. I really don’t understand why I was prevented from seeing Mr. Jackson. It looks to me as if the government wants to sweep this whole fiasco with the remission of the sentences of the prisoners under the rug, but it cannot be swept under the rug. And, whatever it is, the government is going to have to give an account of exactly what happened.”
The lawyer meanwhile continues to argue that the attorney general does not have the power to rescind the decision to shave time off Jackson’s sentence, nor the others that he also rescinded. This is in fact Tabor’s reason for seeking to speak with the prisoners, starting with Jackson.
“Even though the Chief of Staff [Lionel] Max Hurst is saying that the attorney general did the revocation within the timeframe given by the law for revocation, there is no law for revocation. Cite the law for revocation; cite the Act which gives the attorney general the authority to revoke a remission that he has given,” he challenged.
In addition to addressing the matters aforementioned, Tabor also responded to Prime Minister Gaston Browne who said the opposition United Progressive Party seems to be contradicting itself on the matter of remission for the convicts. Browne had earlier alleged that the UPP in one breath says it does not support granting remission to the three killers who were among eight who got sentence reductions for good behaviour, while in another breath they argued that those re-imprisoned must be released and were engaged in an effort to secure their release.
The legal advocate said he is not acting on the UPP’s advice or behalf, so his efforts to defend the criminals should not be lumped into the statements made by any political party or person.
“I am speaking as an attorney, and as an attorney it is your objective to see that justice is done and that the rule of law is practiced … so irrespective of what other people are saying, irrespective of what parties are saying, my position is purely legal,” he said.
Tabor said while he agrees that some of those who got the reprieve committed horrible crimes, the fact is they are now being held unlawfully.
Last month the attorney general shaved time off the sentences of eight convicts including three killers and three sex offenders, a fraudster and a career thief.
They were given their remission and release warrants between the end of February and the start of March and it was after that the attorney general revoked the decision for several of them and they were returned to the jail.
He said he had rescinded the decision soon after making it and the warrants should not have been issued to the killers, at least. But, due to an administrative error, he said, this was not communicated to the prison authorities before the men were advised of the decision to reward them with the sentence reduction for good behaviour.
The public has condemned the remissions and some called for the sacking of the attorney general.
Cabinet however said the matter is now settled since the revocation was done.