09 May, 2010
Proposals for reform. During the 2006 consultations on constitutional and electoral reform, several persons recommended to the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission that section 3.(3) of the 1982 Constitution of Anguilla is defective. It presently provides that a person arrested is to be brought before the Magistrate “without delay”. What is to be made of the meaning of this phrase?
Is it permissible to keep the suspect in the police cell for three days, or four days, or five days, on the ground that the investigation is still continuing? This procedure has often been used in the past by police officers to break a person's will and force him to confess his guilt. Some of these confessions have been true, but others have eventually been found to have been false, having been pressured out of weak or mentally defective persons who were not able to stand up to the stress of confinement.
In the more advanced constitutions of the Commonwealth Caribbean the solution has been to provide a strict deadline when a person in custody must be brought before the Magistrate, or he will be entitled to sue for breach of his constitutional rights. In some of our countries it is 24 hours. In others it is 48 hours.
At paragraph 13 of its 2006 Report of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission the Commission recommended that Anguilla's new Constitution should replace the present vague “without delay” with the stricter “within 48 hours”.
The police and the Attorney-General's Chambers don't like the proposal. But I believe a majority of us would feel safer and happier with such a reform.