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Lawyers Support Smith On Detention Centre Access

Attorney Fred Smith pictured at the Detention Centre on Tuesday after being removed from the facility the day before.

Photos: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

Attorney Fred Smith pictured at the Detention Centre on Tuesday after being removed from the facility the day before. Photos: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

By SANCHESKA DORSETT

Tribune Staff Reporter

sdorsett@tribunemedia.net

TOP lawyers yesterday came to attorney Fred Smith’s defence after he was thrown out of the Detention Centre on Monday and denied access to his client.

Minister of State of Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson told reporters outside the House of Assembly yesterday while he does not know the details surrounding Mr Smith’s incident, it is unconstitutional for a lawyer to be prevented from seeing a client.

“Having access to an attorney that is enshrined in our Constitution,” the former Bar Association president said.

“It’s is the basis for the rule of law and so essential to it that the Constitution accepts that the court is responsible for the protection of fundamental rights for the interpretation for all laws and the reason the Constitution sets up that right for someone to have access to a lawyer is that through that, persons are able to intelligently bring their complaints of the breach of any rights of the lawyer of their choosing through the courts or advocate for the protection of those rights,” he said.

“That is the basis upon which our democracy is built. So, the right to have a lawyer is fundamental and only in extreme reasons should that be curtailed.”

On Monday, Mr Smith was physically removed from the Detention Centre after he was blocked from seeing detainee Jean Rony Jean-Charles.

In an interview after the incident, Mr Smith said he went to the Detention Centre at 10am to see his client. On arrival, Mr Smith said he was given the run around after first being told to wait and then instructed to “make an appointment” at the Immigration Department on Hawkins Hill in order to see the detainee.

After exchanging words with immigration officers, Mr Smith was asked to leave the property, and after refusing, he was forcibly removed.

Videos of the altercation went viral on social media.

Bahamas Bar Association President Kahlil Parker in a letter addressed to association members, said after reviewing the footage of Mr Smith at the Detention Centre, he is requesting an investigation “forthwith”.

“A detained person’s constitutional right to retain, instruct, and consult an attorney of his/her own choosing without delay is a fundamental tenet of our democracy. The arbitrary abrogation of constitutional rights must be resisted with vigour,” Mr Parker wrote.

“As attorneys, we are duty bound to stand in the breach for our fellow human beings and to remind those in whom we, however briefly, entrust the coercive power of the state that any person in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas enjoys certain fundamental constitutional and human rights.”

On Tuesday, member of Parliament for Long Island Adrian Gibson told The Tribune he stands with Mr Smith, because he too was turned away from the Detention Centre and not allowed to see his client last year.

“I was stopped from seeing my client at the Detention Centre last year around this same time,” Mr Gibson, an attorney, said.

“So I stand with Mr Smith. No one should be denied legal counsel whether they are at the prison or the Detention Centre. Everyone, whether Bahamian or illegal, is entitled to have equal access to justice and legal counsel and to be denied that is a breach of the Constitution.

Senior advocate Damian Gomez QC also defended Mr Smith.

“We live in a democracy which protects each of us whether citizens or tourists or others, from unlawful activity of the State. It is disturbing to see on social media a report that the authorities at the Detention Center prevented Mr Frederick Smith,QC from visiting a client detained at this facility,” said Mr Gomez.

“All criminals and suspected criminals including illegal aliens are entitled to access to Justice which includes access to legal counsel of their choice at their expense. There are Bahamians who have been wrongfully detained at this facility. We must be vigilant to ensure that the rights of all persons are duly protected in our democracy.”

On Wednesday, Immigration Director William Pratt told The Tribune an appointment is not needed to see anyone at the Detention Centre as long as the visitor shows up during visiting hours.

Government officials have also said Mr Smith’s client was not at the Detention Centre when he showed up to visit him.

Comments

The_Oracle 5 days, 8 hours ago

Can we hear from someone in Government with answers? Your legitimacy is on the line. Your silence is deafening. Are your immigration mini-m'coutes ducking for cover? Flush them out!

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bogart 5 days, 8 hours ago

Without question the client should have the right to consult with a lawyer. The last paragraph is telling in that Mr. Smiths client was not at the DetentionCentre when he showed up to visit so why didnt some official tell Mr. Smith this? And having said that, then thete would not have any reason to throw Mr Smith out.

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sam65 5 days, 7 hours ago

Maybe Just maybe no one wanted Mr Smith to see first hand the deplorable inhumane living conditions at the detention center. Most Bahamians aren’t privy to the kinds of living conditions that exist there. While the constitution outlines the letter of the law not everyone interprets it the same & some just don’t acknowledge it at all!! How sad it’s to be locked up, dehumanized, degraded & then deported!!!

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sheeprunner12 5 days, 7 hours ago

Did Red Fred follow the established protocol and due process to enter the Detention Centre????? .......... or did he just wanted to create a scene to impress Amnesty and the other HR lobbyists????????? ........ and if the person was a Haitian without status or papers, what's the point??????

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DaGoobs 5 days, 6 hours ago

The head of Immigration says anyone can visit the Centre during visiting hours. Most prisons and places of incarceration have a sign up in large letter stating what are its visiting hours and the better ones state what can and cannot be brought onto the compound. So as long as Smith was there during visiting hours, whatever hours they are, he would not have been in breach of those protocols. Several things come to mind: (1) Detention Centre officers could have told Smith, if they cared to, that his client was no longer there. That, of course, creates other problems for them but sometimes it's better to swallow a bitter pill early; (2) They could have told Smith that they cannot assist him but make a telephone call for him to Hawkins Hill and let him speak to one of the big-wigs there who would explain to Smith the Immigration Department's position on the matter and the status of Smith's client. Whether Mr Jean-Charles had status or papers is the crux of the matter. He, like thousands of others including a Government minister, claims to be born in the Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents and constitutionally entitled to apply for Bahamian citizenship. That issue hasn't been resolved therefore it is an abuse of power and procedurally incorrect for Bahamas Immigration to unilaterally deport or repatriate him to Haiti, particularly when he has not been charged in court with anything. This is when we get into the unilateral and despotic aspects of government in this country. If people like Mr Jean-Charles are accused of breaking the law by being in the Bahamas without any status or any papers then they should be charged in a court of law and let an independent jurist determine the matter after hearing from both sides, Immigration and the detainee, and determining the matter on legal principles. Immigration have a power of arrest but not a power to deport or repatriate without a judicial hearing. Smith might have gone slightly overboard with his handling of this matter but, truth be told, incidents like this are long overdue. Too often some uninitiated civil servant (read policeman, immigration officer, clerk in some government office and others) make unilateral decisions without legal or statutory basis that impact members of the public in the belief that they are not answerable to anyone for their actions. A classic example was the last chairperson of the Straw Market Authority who posted some new regulations that he/she had just dreamed up on their office door to the detriment of the vendors in the Straw Market. However the statute creating the Authority requires regulations to be published in the Gazette, presumably after they have been vetted and approved by the Attorney-General's office. The sooner we disabuse these tin pot officials that they have all the power and we in the public do not have to accept the option to either take their decision without complaint or leave it the better off this country will be.

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bogart 4 days, 12 hours ago

Tribune Article 21 Friday August 2015 in Tribune by Nico Scavella.title. 'Rony Jean was linked to 29 armed robberies in three weeks'
Google rony jean bahamas Haitian Bahamian national 32 years old 2015 ....Jean a 32 year old Haitian Bahamian national, was shot and killed by officers early on Wednesday morning, moments after he impersonated a police sergeant, committed a string of armed robberies and led police on a high speed chase in the Carmichael Road area.'
The google site must be read in entirety. The google site must be read in entirety. We really need a Homeland Security force in itself to encompass multiple agemcies to deal with National Security matters and for starters put picture id next to names in citizenship ads and full comlete addresses so the public can respond as requested.

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birdiestrachan 4 days, 12 hours ago

Gibson and Johnson do not count they follow The out spoken QC where ever he leads and jumps when he counts to three.

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TheMadHatter 4 days, 6 hours ago

Apparently some cry baby Bahamians don't want the new Government to solve our problems.

Alternative? Keep your problems and cry about them some more during the next election cycle.

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jusscool 20 hours, 25 minutes ago

Something isn't right about this story. First of all . How long was his client missing from the detention center? Did Mr. Smith know that his Client wasn't there? Who said to Mr.Smith that his client wanted to see him, if he wasn't there in the first place? Why didn't immigration tell Mr. Smith his Client wasn't there? This all has the making of inside info by someone in the department!

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