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”).
- 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”).
- In 2014, the Jamaican Conviction was expunged from his police record pursuant to a decision by the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Board.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
1 GD 2015 CA 4
for exemplary conduct in prison, he was released after having spent approximately 23 years in prison.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- In summary, the Applicant stated that:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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;
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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