30 August, 2010

Montserrat 3

The FCO proposes to weaken many of the fundamental rights of the Montserratian people.  We see this first in the section 5 fundamental right to protection from arbitrary arrest or detention.  This provision in the draft Constitution is very weak.  It does not provide for informing arrested persons promptly of their rights.  They need be told of the reason for their arrest only after they have been brought to the station. 
A person needs to know immediately he is arrested of the reason for his arrest.  This is so not least because he has a right to know whether he is being illegally arrested so that he can exercise his right to resist the arrest.
The version of the right in the draft is weakened by the provision that he is to be brought “promptly” before a judicial officer.  This provision is capable of abuse, particularly in view of the penchant of the police for arresting persons on a Friday afternoon, and then not bringing them before the Magistrate until the next sitting of the court.  They ought to be obliged to bring an arrested person before a judicial officer within 24 hours of the arrest.  They should bring him to the home of the Magistrate if necessary. 
This is, not least, so that the Magistrate can observe the arrested person for signs of physical abuse and to be able to give the necessary directions for a medical examination, and to consider bail.

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