17 January, 2007

Police Reform

Police Reform”.

I was trolling through Hansard this morning and came across a question in Parliament asked of the Secretary of State. The question was what Orders in Council he planned to bring forward during 2007, and if he would specify the purpose and the overseas territory concerned in each case.

To my astonishment, Geoff Hoon, the Minister of State Europe, Foreign & Commonwealth Office replied in writing yesterday as follows. There is no annual calendar of planned Orders in Council for the British Overseas Territories. Orders in Council are made on a case-by-case basis as necessary, and appropriate, and usually after consultation with the Governments of the Overseas Territories. An example of this is the Anguilla Constitution (Amendment) Order 2007 which will amend the current Anguilla Constitution so as to give effect to police reforms requested by the Government of Anguilla. We intend to submit that Order in Council to the Privy Council at its meeting on 7 February 2007.”

I had no idea we had asked for any constitutional amendments to deal with the police. No constitutional amendments have been publicly discussed. None of our Ministers has mentioned the word “police” in public for years. The Governor is the minister for the police. He has not mentioned once in public in recent years any need to amend the Constitution to deal with the police. It would be fair to say that the Anguillian public has no knowledge of any proposal to amend the Constitution to deal with the police or any other matter. There was a mention in the Gazette recently of a proposal to create a Police Service Commission. But, we have no idea what amendments are now being proposed for our Constitution.

The Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission has made several recommendations for constitutional amendments concerning the police. See in particular, paragraphs 60-63 of the Report presented to government on 25 August 2006. One of these recommendations is for a Police Service Commission. The Constitutional Commissioners were quite specific about the type of Police Service Commission that was desirable for Anguilla at this time. The Report is available on the Government website, if you would like to read the paragraphs for yourself. There has been no discussion of the Commission's recommendations as yet since that date. Why are we not informed of constitutional amendments before they are brought into effect? These are not the Middle Ages, for God’s Sake! And, we are not peasants or serfs to gratefully accept whatever bones of improvement are cast our way!

Are the proposed amendments consistent with the proposals made by the Anguillian public through the recommendations of the Commission? Are they in conflict with the recommendations? What is the exact wording of the proposed amendments? Does anyone know what the proposed amendments are? Am I the only one being kept in the dark, and this is something everyone else knows about?

If I am wrong, will someone please let me know.

And, I give notice that if the proposed amendment is not consistent with the wishes of the Anguillian public, as expressed in the Report of the Commissioners, I shall campaign relentlessly against it. When it is passed as an Order in Council, I shall argue that it is unconstitutional and illegal, and unenforceable. I shall urge that no Anguillian should be so traitorous as to agree to serve on it. I will change my mind only if I can be persuaded that the amendment has in fact been subject to thorough public scrutiny and discussion prior to its being brought into effect. That is the only way that our Constitution can be validly amended.


  1. You have me confused. Which is it you are objecting to? That the amendment has not been published. Or that the amendment does not comply with the Commission's recommendations? These are two different issues. You do not make it clear which concerns you.

  2. I am of course concerned about the two of them. My first objection is that the government thought they could amend our Constitution without letting us know in advance. The second objection depends on what the amendment is. If it is the amendment proposed by the Commission, then the first objection still remains. If it is to do something that the Commission did not recommend, then I object to that as well.

  3. I agree with your concerns. But I don't understand why you think the reforms would be unconstitunional. This is not the first time amendments to the Constitution have come down from the UK Government. What makes this so different? The Constituion of Anguilla clearly gives the power to the Governor on matters of the Police. Incidently, the Government can also amend the Constitution, whenever necessary. To the best of my knowledge, there are no laws or rules stating how the Constitution of Anguilla can be amended. When the government wants to delay the process a Commision is set up. When they want to "kiss" the British feet, they do it by an act in the House. All the work involve in setting up a Commission was just fullifilling a piece of the UF manifesto. Government knows what amendments will be pushed and those that will be ignored.

    However, I have not studied this report thoroughly enough to give an informed opinion. May be the reforms proposed are progressive. The RAPF in the past appeared to protect the rights of the convicted more so than the free. I doubt if they even have current pictures of prisoners on file. On many occasions, when the RAPF charge an individual with a crime, information about the person identity is not release to the public. Why are they still using silly initials? It leaves me to conclude the safety of the public is second to prisoners rights. That department needs a public relations officer. And there must be oversight on police conduct and how complaints are handled.

    Judge, if you are going to campaign relentlessly on this, I know of many more pressing issues you can consume your time with.

  4. Hello AxaNow,

    You go right to the heart of the issue.

    My position is as follows. The Constitution of Anguilla is a piece of Anguilla law. It is not a piece of UK domestic law. Anguillians have agreed to the convention that the Constitution is to be made and amended by the Queen of Anguilla. They have never agreed that the UK government has the right unilaterally to amend our Constitution. The British say they will never do that. They protest that they only make those amendments that the people want.

    It is entirely up to us what we choose to do when there is a proposal to amend the Constitution, from whatever source the idea originates. If we agree to the Queen amending it, then it is a valid amendment. If we do not agree to it, then it is an invalid amendment.

    We show our agreement by acquiescing. We show our disagreement by protesting. There is by convention no other procedure. A referendum is out of the question. Since the awful day of the referendum on the West Indies Federation, when the people of Jamaica voted purely on whether they liked the Manley administration over the Bustamante party, no West Indian government has willingly agreed to a referendum. It will always be an opinion poll on the popularity of the government of the day, and not about the issue supposedly before the people.

    So, because there is no definite and particular procedure for expressing our national agreement to an amendment, it is up to us to decide on how we apply the convention. Do we acquiesce, or do we object. Only the people can, in their masses, and by raising their voices in protest, make their will known.

    I intend to urge rejection if the conventions for amending our Constitution are not followed. It will be up to the public whether they agree to the amendment or not.

  5. I have now had an email from the Attorney-General assuring me that the draft Order in Council will be published in the Official Gazette on 23 January. Say we get our copies in the Post Box three or four days later. Rather late in the day for us to be given the chance to read the proposed amendment that is to be signed in to law on 7 February, do you not think?

    And, what about our members of the House of Assembly? What sort of discourtesy must it be to let them learn that the Constitution will be amended in less than two weeks time by reading about it in the Gazette! Should not Members of the House be officially notified by way of a Resolution, and given some opportunity to express their views one way or the other on such a fundamental matter as the amendment of our Constitution? That is in addition to the right of the public to have the opportunity to express our views on any such proposal. It still has me in a state of shock that the British Government could act so stupidly and blindly! Throwing us a token gesture at public involvement by publishing the Order in Council without giving us a reasonable time to study it and to suggest improvements or alterations is no answer to the fundamental objection to the procedure that has been followed up to this point in pursuing this constitutional amendment.

  6. Putting things in the Gazette is a sham. If you want to keep something a secret, publish it in the Gazette. How many ordinary Anguillians, not empoyed by the Government, subscribe ti it or ever see it? This is not real or effective "notice" except by the some obscure and outmoded legal definition.


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