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A lawyer with a track record of victory against the government in civil matters says that is it unlawful for police to detain persons for more than 24 hours without charge.

“There is a misapprehension in St. Vincent — and I don’t know if it is misapprehension or if it is hubris, if it is just wanton violation of the law — because there is this feeling in St. Vincent in the police force that you can detain somebody for 48 hours. That is not what the law says,” Jomo Thomas told iWitness News on Monday.

He, said that the law, however, says that once someone is charged, they have to be brought before a judicial tribunal within 48 hours or a time that is reasonably possible,” Thomas said.

“Clearly, the police cannot arbitrarily pick up a citizen, because it flies up against a citizens’ fundamental right to liberty. The police can detain you, however, if they have probable cause to make an arrest,

He said that once the police have probable cause to make an arrest, the police could do so.

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“What the police cannot do, and it is what they did in your case, is to detain you to claim to be investigating a possible charge because the police have to have sufficient information, based on probable cause to detain,” he said.

Jomo Thomas
Lawyer Jomo Thomas. (iWN file photo)

He was speaking to iWitness News in a joint interview with Kenson King, who police detained for more than 30 hours on the weekend in connection with a Facebook post.

King was then released without charge. He told iWitness News that he would take his lawyer’s advice to bring a false imprisonment lawsuit against the state.

Thomas said that once the police detain someone, by law, they have to tell that person, as soon as possible, the reason for the detention and within 24 hours, must bring a charge.

He said that in the case of King, who was detained on a Friday, “Evidently intending to embarrass him, I think, [because] we don’t have any duty judge here, we don’t have any night court here, we don’t have any weekend court here so you would hold him Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so by Sunday it would be 48 hours but you would bring him to court and the next possible convenient time, which would be Monday morning.

“Police believe that they can detain you and hold you for 48 hours. My position is that anytime the police do that and that results in no charge, what they did was to falsely imprison a citizen, because, as I said, the detention must be based on probable cause. You have to have probable cause to arrest; you have to have probable cause to detain.”

He said that some police officers said that reasonable supervision is basis on which to make an arrest.

“If you reasonably suspect that somebody is committing a crime or has committed a crime, then you can pursue that person…” Thomas said.

“Where someone is falsely imprisoned, then the person has a right to challenge the state to justify their imprisonment.”

Kenson King
Kenson King was detained for over 30 hours then released without charge. (iWN photo)

Asked if detention amounts to imprisonment, Thomas said:

“An arrest is where you cannot leave. If the police hold you and you try to get up, walk up out of there and you can’t leave, you are arrested, you are detained and those words are most often used interchangeably.”

Thomas added:

“The other thing in St. Vincent that is of concern to me is that police would detain you and police would seize your phone, private property and believe that they can go through it, but there is constitutional protection against the seizure and perusal of personal private property. But the police do it time and time again and I have raised it more than once and nobody seems to take heed. So I think that’s a point that needs to be tested as well.”

He said there is a case from Grenada that speaks to that issue.

“But I don’t think the police are about that. The only way that I think they would be checked is if you go to the court and the court pronounces that this cannot be done, that cannot be done, because even when you bring an authority from another state which is binding because Grenada is part of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and a decision in Grenada binds the authorities in St. Vincent, nothing seems to happen,” Thomas said.

The lawyer said he had already laid out to King how he thinks they should proceed.

“And I agree with everything counsel says,” King told iWitness News.

7 replies on “Detaining people for more than 24 hours without charge illegal — lawyer”

  1. There is so much that needs to be changed in SVG. In some ways the police do a good job and in many ways they are terrible!
    Obviously when it comes to detaining someone they are terrible! The laws in that instance are terrible enough. Being able to detain someone for 24 hours without evidence of any crime is already a disgraceful law for any country that says it believes in freedom and human rights.

    It is also a standard, AND HIGHLY APPROVED practice for our police to administer beatings to those in custody that they do not like.
    What a disgrace to those officers that seek to do great policing! Not to mention that the worst, the bad eggs, are the ones that get advanced!

  2. Very true mr Thomas..90% of ppl in st Vincent dont know there full right wen come to deal wit the police.

  3. How about when the police obtain a search warrant and have no ‘just cause’ except an instruction by a member of government for personal reasons.

    The police fool the JP by presenting a warrant to him for signing that says they wish to search for firearms, ammunition, drugs, paperwork, electronics and convince the JP they have just cause to believe. When all they want is paperwork and electronics to grab for their task master politician, and go to a house and remove everything, leave no itemised list of what they took, promise to return with a list and left no copy of the search warrant.

    No warrant is required for firearms, ammunition, or drugs. The police just need just cause and they can come and raid your house.

    This behaviour is actually a political fishing trip on behalf of fatso.

    It is happening every day, sent by a leading politician to inflict his own spite on the recipient for political reasons.

    It has happened to citizens, doctors, businessmen, anyone who apposes the politician.

    I can name six people who have had this very treatment.

    1. I have not heard of this but I believe you! If we want anything about SVG to be “great”, we have to make it that way. It starts with leadership. If they show no initiative to place strict BUT FAIR measures in how laws are enforced, the leaders are failing the people. Too bad that many of the higher ranking police have thier priorities mixed-up. Too much in SVG has to be changed. The leadership we need does not seem to be in sight.

  4. A lot of police officers don’t know the the law and I hope the new ones who went in do. There are lots of issues. Police officers like to lock up or detain people for there own personal issues make up false charges and even if you win in court no punishment to the officers. Right now I no of a case where a young lady got arrested on false allegations witch didn’t even add up because of an ex commissioners lover’s relative. The police force need a clean sweep

  5. Agustus Carr says:

    Is really realistic to charge a person within 24 hours of a Serious crime. Come on Jomo. Charges are based on evidence. The proper process is to investigate then charge. However, sometimes the seriousness of the crime requires further investigation and examination of Forensic evidence to make a prima facia case.

    You are correct in saying an arrested person should be brought to court within 48 hours after being arrested. If this is not possible there should be a provision in law for further detention for seven (7) days then fourteen (14) days dependent on the seriousness of the crime. The Police should be given up to twenty eight (28) days to keep someone in custody. All of this should be done on the basis of an affidavit by an Officer not below the rank of Assistant Superintendent.

    St. Vincent and the Grenadines should enact a Bail Amendment Act to allow the Police to carry out their investigations. This is what most other countries have done.You can’t realistically think that a person can be brought to court for murder within 48 hours. You need time to examine forensic and other supporting evidence to establish your case for their to be a charge. Forensic evidence usually takes a very long time to analyze

    Ask yourself this question. What explanation would you offer if that person is released then kill someone? What would you say to the victim’s family. If you think I am wrong do some research to see how it is done in the UK.

    Their are some constitutional and human rights issues around detention but we should never limit the police to their work. If we continue this way we would have many unsolved cases and potentially jeopardize the lives of witness and the victims family.

  6. Thank God, that this layer who was once enslaved iby a cult is now free at last. The door of his prison was opened by his conscience, he has traded his shackles for the love of his country, thank God, he is free at last. We love you jomo. We pray that many more will soon be free also.

Comments closed.