Isat Buchanan’s Story Not About Rehabilitation, It Is About The Serious Denigration Of Standards…

One of the things that I have writ­ten about over the years is the dan­ger inher­ent in allow­ing the inmates to run the asy­lum.
Whenever I invoke the inher­ent dan­ger in that idea, I always did so in a metaphor­i­cal sense.
Unfortunately, today we are at the place where the inmates are lit­er­al­ly run­ning the asy­lum. We are in trou­ble.
Societies are made up of indi­vid­ual homes, the val­ues we teach our chil­dren and those that we adhere to in our indi­vid­ual homes will inex­orably deter­mine the qual­i­ty of the broad­er soci­ety in which we live.
As I wrote recent­ly, I grew up in a Christian Conservative home in rur­al North East Saint Catherine.
In that home, it was God, fam­i­ly, and coun­try, in that order. As a child grow­ing up I did not know any­one who had been to prison except a cousin who was arrest­ed for grow­ing mar­i­jua­na.
Not many Jamaicans can claim those val­ues today. As a con­se­quence, the soci­etal ills we are wit­ness­ing today may be traced right back to the break­down of the rules, the relax­ing of stan­dards, under new and con­trived meth­ods of oper­a­tion, many of which have been derived from [for­eign] coun­tries.
It is a slip­pery slope when we not only relax estab­lished rules, but throw out tried and proven norms and replace them with new and fash­ion­able ones. Once the Genie is out of the bot­tle there is no putting it back in.

In a recent inter­view giv­en to a Radio Jamaica evening pro­gram [Attorney] Isat Buchanan in mak­ing the case for indi­vid­u­als detained under the emer­gency pow­ers giv­en the secu­ri­ty forces as a con­se­quence of the inor­di­nate­ly high crime rate, derid­ed and broad-brushed the entire Jamaica Constabulary Force as, quote; (une­d­u­cat­ed with five CXC sub­jects”).
The learned Attorney made no dis­tinc­tion, as to whether he was speak­ing of a spe­cif­ic indi­vid­ual offi­cer when he made those incen­di­ary and dis­re­spect­ful com­ments.
What the [learned Attorney] also did was to demon­strate to the coun­try that the colo­nial­ists’ men­tal­i­ty that has char­ac­ter­ized Jamaica since it’s inde­pen­dence, and has con­tin­ued the caste sys­tem to present-day is alive and well.
That edu­ca­tion would be viewed as con­fined to degrees ver­i­fied by a piece of paper, by this [learned attor­ney] and pro­fes­sor, is proof that we should con­sid­er the very mean­ing of the word [learned]. That we still have a long way to go in under­stand­ing how soci­eties work.
The very tropes that are at the cen­ter of Buchanan’s unlearned tirade, have been at the very heart of the ills from which he has been extri­cat­ed and allowed to sit. Buchanan’s sto­ry is one that should nev­er have been pos­si­ble, but the rules were relaxed, the stan­dards low­ered and the gates opened to allow a dish­tow­el to become a table­cloth.

Over the years I have point­ed to the dam­age being done across the entire Caribbean region by the University Of The West Indies, the far left-lean­ing out of con­trol lib­er­al cesspool of pro­pa­gan­da and elit­ism.
[Isat Buchanan] leaned into the police depart­ment.
The uncon­sti­tu­tion­al aspect, to put it in lay man’s terms, is that the min­is­ter is not allowed to twid­dle his thumbs or drink his cof­fee and decide who will I detain today and who will I say can nev­er go home until I say so. The con­sti­tu­tion, as you know, is the don of all dons…what was cer­tain­ly put before the court today and the deci­sion of the court is that you can­not arbi­trar­i­ly take away the lib­er­ty of the cit­i­zens of this coun­try because you are act­ing on the whim of une­d­u­cat­ed police offi­cers with their five CXC sub­jects — unac­cept­able, and I am very unapolo­getic about say­ing that, because all the infor­ma­tion that the min­is­ter flicks with his pen comes from the foot sol­diers who some­times have per­son­al vendet­tas against these young men, and we can­not turn ordi­nary men and women into crim­i­nals. That is not what the drafters of our con­sti­tu­tion, the Charter of Rights, which is recent, would have envi­sioned.” 

One of the things that have changed over the last sev­er­al years is that the old tropes and dog-whis­tles that once were lever­aged against the JCF can no longer be used with any degree of truth. Sure there are dumb cops, dumb doc­tors, dumb politi­cians, dumb teach­ers’ and we all knew that there are dumb lawyers. Isat Buchanan had no oblig­a­tion to con­vince us.
In respond­ing to Buchanan’s igno­rance, head of the Police Officers Association, Senior Superintendent Wayne Cameron shot back.
No con­vict­ed felon has the moral author­i­ty to refer to the police as une­d­u­cat­ed.”
We have mem­bers of the JCF who are lawyers. We have mem­bers with PhDs. We have lawyers at var­i­ous ranks from con­sta­ble to deputy com­mis­sion­er of police. Any police­man in the coun­try today can make the deci­sion to go to law school, once he or she sat­is­fies the pre­req­ui­sites… I dare Mr Buchanan to join the JCF, because no one with a crim­i­nal record can be enlist­ed in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. No indi­vid­ual, irre­spec­tive of your sta­tus in life in this coun­try. It does­n’t mat­ter. You can­not become a mem­ber of the Jamaica Constabulary Force with a crim­i­nal record, so he can­not become a police offi­cer. We can join the legal fra­ter­ni­ty any day,” SSP Cameron said. “Yes, he has angered some per­sons here. He said he was unapolo­getic about it, and we are unapolo­getic about any­thing we are say­ing now.”

Shots fired, haha­ha, I love this JCF, this is the part of the JCF that I fought and lob­bied for dur­ing my short tenure, this is the JCF I fight for today.
Isat Buchanan’s out­burst tells us exact­ly who he is, his true char­ac­ter came out in that inter­view, and it demon­strat­ed to the coun­try that the actions tak­en by the author­i­ties to allow him access to the Jamaican bar were a grave mis­car­riage of jus­tice, and a prece­dent which ought to be struck down forth­with.
Isat Buchanan is a con­vict­ed Drug mule con­vict­ed in Jamaica and had his crim­i­nal record expunged. He was con­vict­ed in the United States sim­i­lar­ly and spent ten (10) years in an American prison for being a drug mule.
Isat Buchanan is a lawyer in Jamaica and a teacher at the University of the West Indies’ (intel­lec­tu­al ghet­to).
This exam­ple of soci­etal dis­in­te­gra­tion man­i­fest­ed through this igno­rant drug deal­er is that when there are no soci­etal stan­dards the soci­ety suf­fers immense­ly.
But Buchanan, though [unapolo­getic] in throw­ing stones, was the pre­dictable cow­ard any real police offi­cer would imag­ine.

I said I was unapolo­getic about mak­ing that state­ment. The state­ment being that the con­sti­tu­tion is the don of all dons. Meaning, if you are not in line with the con­sti­tu­tion, what­ev­er you are doing is wrong. In rela­tion to the con­sti­tu­tion, the offi­cers are not edu­cat­ed in the con­sti­tu­tion. They have not received the right train­ing. I could extend fur­ther by say­ing I am still learn­ing the con­sti­tu­tion, and I do law. The ‘une­d­u­cat­ed’ was not to say that the police offi­cers are dunce. I nev­er said that. If any­body knows Isat Buchanan, I’m an edu­ca­tor, I teach at the Faculty of Law [at The UWI]; my class­mates were police offi­cers and some of my stu­dents are police offi­cers.”
I have the high­est respect for the police force. I have the max­i­mum amount of love and would nev­er, in my exis­tence, dis­re­spect a police offi­cer. Similarly, all I am say­ing is, when it comes to my use of the word une­d­u­cat­ed it was not about whether you have a degree. It is about the con­sti­tu­tion in terms of being learned in the con­sti­tu­tion. My use of the word was the very English def­i­n­i­tion in the Oxford Dictionary of une­d­u­cat­ed and not about whether you went to school of not. Most clear­ly, I would nev­er call a police offi­cer dunce. A lot of my court pro­to­cols I have learned from the respectable mem­bers of the JCF. Those mem­bers of the JCF that are with­in the precincts of the court have taught me a lot in terms of how to han­dle myself in court. So I am a stu­dent of mem­bers of the JCF. I would nev­er set out to dis­re­spect them.“
If any police offi­cer is offend­ed, I am com­plete­ly, unequiv­o­cal­ly say­ing I am sor­ry for offend­ing because that was not the con­text in which I used the word une­d­u­cat­ed, par­tic­u­lar­ly with five CXC sub­jects. It was to say that you have not been trained in mat­ters of the con­sti­tu­tion and that excludes lawyers who are police offi­cers and oth­er per­sons. This is the assump­tion, that I am begin­ning there­with. I was not paint­ing a broad brush on the JCF, and I would nev­er do that. Anybody who knows me knows I am a human rights attor­ney. I nev­er dis­crim­i­nate.” 

The def­i­n­i­tion of being a man is to own up, fess up, and take respon­si­bil­i­ty for one’s actions.
What a punk ass bitch, he could­n’t. He went on dig­ging, and with every syl­la­ble, he dug him­self a deep­er hole.
As a detec­tive I believed in let­ting peo­ple talk, they will tell you who they are and in the silt and sand, you may find lit­tle nuggets of gold.
We have found the lit­tle nuggets of gold in the state­ments of this twice-con­vict­ed drug deal­er. He is vir­u­lent­ly anti-police, which is his right, after all, it was police offi­cers that arrest­ed him twice and had him pros­e­cut­ed for his crimes, why would­n’t he hate them?
His ven­om as an attor­ney and sup­posed lec­tur­er, is where the prob­lem lies.
(This one rot­ten apple) is in a posi­tion to expo­nen­tial­ly cor­rupt and spoil the whole bar­rel.

Mr Isat A. Buchanan (“the Applicant”) grad­u­at­ed from the Norman Manley Law School in September 2017 and short­ly there­after applied to the Council for a Qualifying Certificate and a Certificate pur­suant to sec­tion 6 of the Legal Profession Act. His appli­ca­tion was sup­port­ed by vol­un­tary dec­la­ra­tions or char­ac­ter ref­er­ence let­ters from eleven per­sons (“the Referees”).

  1. The Applicant’s Voluntary Declaration dis­closed that he had been twice con­vict­ed for a crim­i­nal offence:

a) In 1997 when he was 17 years old, the Applicant was con­vict­ed in the Half-Way-Tree Resident Magistrates Court of pos­ses­sion of cocaine, deal­ing in cocaine and tak­ing steps to export cocaine. He was ordered to pay a fine and serve 21 days impris­on­ment. He paid the fine and served the 21 days (“the Jamaican con­vic­tion”).

b) In 2000, the Applicant was con­vict­ed in the United States for con­spir­a­cy to import cocaine. He was sen­tenced to 10 years impris­on­ment and was released after serv­ing 81⁄2 years (“the USconviction”).

  1. In 2014, the Jamaican Conviction was expunged from his police record pur­suant to a deci­sion by the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Board.
  2. In view of these pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions, Council did not treat with his appli­ca­tion as a hear­ing on paper as it did with the oth­er appli­ca­tions. It deferred his appli­ca­tion and required the Applicant to attend a meet­ing of Council. It also invit­ed him to bring coun­sel to rep­re­sent him and any wit­ness­es as he thought fit.
  3. On November 22, 2017, the Applicant and his coun­sel, Mr Bert Samuels attend­ed a meet­ing of Council. The Applicant and sev­en of the Referees made oral state­ments and respond­ed to ques­tions by mem­bers of Council. Mr Samuels made legal sub­mis­sions.


6. The General Legal Council is the Education Authority pur­suant to sec­tion 2 of the Legal Profession Act (“the Act”). Section 6 (1) of the Act pro­vides that:

A per­son shall be qual­i­fied for enrol­ment if he holds a qual­i­fy­ing cer­tifi­cate and sat­is­fies the Council that he has attained the age of twen­ty-one years, is not an alien, and is of good char­ac­ter.


  1. Section 9 (3) of the Act pro­vides that:The [Legal Education] Authority shall issue to any per­son who has sat­is­fied the [Legal Education] Authority that:(a) he has obtained ade­quate prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence in law; and(b) he is oth­er­wise qual­i­fied to prac­tise law
    a cer­tifi­cate to that effect (in this act referred to as a qual­i­fy­ing cer­tifi­cate).
  2. The Applicant had met the aca­d­e­m­ic require­ments to be enti­tled to a qual­i­fy­ing cer­tifi­cate, had attained the age of twen­ty-one years and is a cit­i­zen of Jamaica. The only issue there­fore was whether he had sat­is­fied the Council that he is of good char­ac­ter.
  3. In Council’s view, the applic­a­ble law was that set out by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in Re Joseph Ewart Layne1. In 1986, Mr Layne was con­vict­ed of ten counts of mur­der. He had been the Operational Commander of the People’s Revolutionary Army (“PRA”) and was the one who had issued the direc­tive to recap­ture the PRA’s mil­i­tary head­quar­ters which cul­mi­nat­ed in the exe­cu­tion-style mur­der of a num­ber of Grenadian cit­i­zens includ­ing the then Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, and sev­er­al of his cab­i­net col­leagues.
  4. Mr Layne was sen­tenced to death. However fol­low­ing a deci­sion by the Privy Council that the manda­to­ry death sen­tence which had been imposed on him was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, Mr Layne’s death sen­tence was com­mut­ed to 40 years in prison. Based on remis­sion of sen­tence earned

GD 2015 CA 4


for exem­plary con­duct in prison, he was released after hav­ing spent approx­i­mate­ly 23 years in prison.

  1. While incar­cer­at­ed Mr Layne earned three aca­d­e­m­ic degrees, includ­ing a bachelor’s and master’s in law. After his release he was admit­ted to the Hugh Wooding Law School where he grad­u­at­ed with a cer­tifi­cate of mer­it. He applied to the Supreme Court of Grenada to be admit­ted to the bar in that coun­try.
  2. Section 17(1)(a) of the Legal Profession Act of Grenada was in sim­i­lar terms to sec­tion 6 of the Jamaican Act. It pro­vid­ed in rel­e­vant part:
Subject to the pro­vi­sions of this Act, a per­son who makes an appli­ca­tion to
the Supreme Court, and sat­is­fies the Supreme Court that he– (a) is of good char­ac­ter; and either
(i) holds the qual­i­fi­ca­tions pre­scribed by law, or…shall be eli­gi­ble to be admit­ted by the Court to prac­tise as an attor­ney-at law in Grenada.

13. As is the case with the present appli­ca­tion, Mr Layne held the qual­i­fi­ca­tions pre­scribed by law. The only issue was whether Mr Layne had sat­is­fied the court that he was of good char­ac­ter. The court reviewed a num­ber of Commonwealth deci­sions and con­clud­ed that an appli­cant in these cir­cum­stances had to sat­is­fy two tests:

  1. a) A sub­jec­tive test, that con­sid­ers “whether the appli­cant is a per­son of integri­ty, hon­esty and reli­a­bil­i­ty”2 (this would involve a con­sid­er­a­tion as to whether the appli­cant has been reha­bil­i­tat­ed) and
  2. b) An objec­tive test that con­sid­ers the effect admit­ting the appli­cant would have on the rep­u­ta­tion of the pro­fes­sion.

2 Paragraph 11


14. The learned judge at first instance con­clud­ed that Mr Layne had sat­is­fied the first test but not the sec­ond, and she there­fore dis­missed his appli­ca­tion. The Court of Appeal refused to inter­fere with the first instance judge’s exer­cise of her discretion3.


  1. The Council con­sid­ered vol­un­tary dec­la­ra­tions or char­ac­ter ref­er­ence let­ters and oral state­ments by the Applicant, Hon Mr Justice C Dennis Morrison, Dr Janeille Matthews, Miss Dorcas White, Miss Tracy Robinson, Dr Leighton Jackson, Mr Vuraldo Barnett and Mr Andre Smith. Council also con­sid­ered char­ac­ter ref­er­ence let­ters from Dr Brian Heap, Dr Imani Tafari-Ama, Miss Myrna McKenzie and Dr Nuklan Hugh.
  2. In sum­ma­ry, the Applicant stat­ed that:
    1. a) In rela­tion to the Jamaican Conviction, a neigh­bour had asked him to take a pack­age to the United States telling him that the pack­age con­tained mon­ey in excess of US$10,000.00. When he was searched at the air­port in Jamaica it was dis­cov­ered that the pack­age in fact con­tained cocaine. He was not aware of its con­tents.
    2. b) In rela­tion to the US Conviction, he was trav­el­ling with a friend and the friend was car­ry­ing cocaine. This was dis­cov­ered when they arrived in the United States. He was not aware that the friend was car­ry­ing cocaine. The friend, how­ev­er, said that the cocaine must have been the Applicant’s.

3 See, e.g., para­graph 71


  1. The Applicant said that he has tak­en full respon­si­bil­i­ty for the out­come of both mat­ters and that he has learned valu­able life lessons. He said that in the years since the con­vic­tions he had made vol­un­teerism an inte­gral part of his life espe­cial­ly activ­i­ties geared towards men­tor­ing and guid­ing youth at risk.
  2. Most of the Referees had taught the Applicant at the University of the West Indies or the Norman Manley Law School. Others had inter­act­ed with him in var­i­ous capac­i­ties. For exam­ple, Mr Barnett is the man­ag­er of the Trench Town Restorative Justice Centre where the Applicant served as a vol­un­tary train­er.
  3. Mr Smith and his twin broth­er (who was also present) were high school dropouts who had no inter­est in pur­su­ing fur­ther stud­ies but as a result of being men­tored by the Applicant they resumed stud­ies and are now study­ing engi­neer­ing at the University of the West Indies.
  4. Dr Jackson (who is the Dean of the Faculty of Law at Mona and prac­tis­es law in Jamaica and in the state of New York) also stat­ed that the tran­script of the evi­dence and judg­ments in rela­tion to the US Conviction indi­cat­ed that:
    1. a) The Jamaican Conviction was the main evi­dence that the pros­e­cu­tion had relied on, in par­tic­u­lar because the pro­hib­it­ed sub­stances were not found on the Applicant;
    2. b) The pro­hib­it­ed sub­stances were found in the lug­gage of the Applicant’s co-defen­dant but his defence was that they belonged to the Applicant. He gave evi­dence for the pros­e­cu­tion of the Applicant’s pre­vi­ous con­vic­tion.


c) The co-defen­dant was acquit­ted even though he was the one who had phys­i­cal pos­ses­sion of the pro­hib­it­ed sub­stances.

  1. The ref­er­ees spoke to the Applicant’s bril­liance, social con­science, love of and com­mit­ment to the law and his will­ing­ness to assist oth­ers. Some referred to his humil­i­ty, his polite man­ner and his gen­tle­man­ly deport­ment. The Applicant had vol­un­tar­i­ly dis­closed his past con­vic­tions to all of them.
  2. Some Referees observed that the Applicant was a very young man at the time of the con­vic­tions and that in the almost two decades since then he had led an unblem­ished and in many ways, exem­plary life.
  3. Many expressed the view that in all the cir­cum­stances he was ful­ly reha­bil­i­tat­ed and that his admis­sion to the bar would not adverse­ly affect the rep­u­ta­tion of the legal pro­fes­sion. Some felt that in fact, many per­sons would con­sid­er the Applicant’s his­to­ry an inspi­ra­tional exam­ple of reha­bil­i­ta­tion and redemp­tion.


  1. After con­sid­er­ing all the evi­dence, Council con­clud­ed (by a major­i­ty) that both the sub­jec­tive test and the objec­tive test had been sat­is­fied. As regards the sub­jec­tive test, mem­bers were in no doubt that the Applicant had been ful­ly reha­bil­i­tat­ed and did not pose any undue risk to the pub­lic.
  2. The objec­tive test was more chal­leng­ing. Council rec­og­nized that some mem­bers of the legal pro­fes­sion and of the pub­lic gen­er­al­ly may con­sid­er that admit­ting the Applicant would adverse­ly affect the rep­u­ta­tion of the


pro­fes­sion, but con­clud­ed that most would share its view that in all the cir­cum­stances the Applicant would be an asset to the pro­fes­sion.

26. For these rea­sons, the Council decid­ed by a major­i­ty to approve the appli­ca­tion and to issue the Applicant a qual­i­fy­ing cer­tifi­cate and a cer­tifi­cate pur­suant to sec­tion 6 of the Legal Profession Act.

B. St. Michael Hylton, Q.C.


The ref­er­ees spoke to the Applicant’s bril­liance, social con­science, love of and com­mit­ment to the law.….…… This is prob­a­bly the most glar­ing state­ment from this nar­ra­tive of events.
Remember that based on these rec­om­men­da­tions and the deci­sion to stretch creduli­ty, a man who was twice-con­vict­ed for huge quan­ti­ties of sched­ule A drugs, impris­oned for ten years, still has­n’t tak­en respon­si­bil­i­ty for his actions, was allowed at the Bar, and is now not only a pro­fes­sor of law, but an offi­cer of the courts.
Let that sink in!
The first com­mit­ment to the law that I can think of is the deci­sion to obey them, not to prof­it from them, not to pur­port­ed­ly teach them.
I thank God that despite all of its chal­lenges to date, no known [con­vict­ed felon] has ever been admit­ted into the JCF, for that those who serve today and those who served and left are incred­i­bly proud and can hold their heads high.
Earning degrees is noble, it is good to get a job but are they real­ly being edu­cat­ed, that’s the real ques­tion?
This guy’s sto­ry should nev­er be twist­ed to con­form to the notion of redemp­tion and sec­ond chance. It should nev­er be allowed to be mis­rep­re­sent­ed as an exam­ple of vir­tu­os­i­ty and the nobil­i­ty of reha­bil­i­ta­tion.
It is the very man­i­fes­ta­tion of cor­rup­tion, and pol­i­tics, it is a clear exam­ple of how our most sacred insti­tu­tions can be cor­rupt­ed when those entrust­ed with pow­er, those giv­en stew­ard­ship over our insti­tu­tions that are pil­lars of our bud­ding democ­ra­cy and the rule of law, trade them away on the altar of cheap expe­di­en­cy.
His sto­ry is made pos­si­ble only on the basis of a peo­ple in love with the igno­ble celebri­ty derived from bla­tant crim­i­nal­i­ty.

Mike Beckles is a for­mer police Detective cor­po­ral, busi­ness­man, free­lance writer,
he is a black achiev­er hon­oree, and pub­lish­er of the blog chatt​-​a​-box​.com. 
He’s also a con­trib­u­tor to sev­er­al web­sites.
You may sub­scribe to his blogs free of charge, or sub­scribe to his Youtube chan­nel @chatt-a-box, for the lat­est pod­cast all free to you of course.

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