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Police must respect human rights- Solicitor General

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 July 2023, 13:11 by Denis Chabrol

Solicitor General Nigel Hawke

Guyana’s Solicitor General Nigel Hawke has urged police not to place children on ‘benches’ at police stations and desist from seizing vehicles without first securing a temporary court order.

He issued the advice while interacting with police at a session on Human Rights Policing during the recently-held symposium for senior officers.

Responding to a question from a former Police Prosecutor Senior Superintendent Stephen Telford about the procedure for detaining vehicles, Mr Hawke said in the early stages of an investigation, for example concerning the discovery of narcotics in a vehicle, police mist decide whether they would like to detain the vehicle.

If that is their desire, Mr Hawke said police must obtain a temporary order rather than taking the position that because they are law enforcement agents they enjoy the right to seize vehicles some times for years.ย  “It should not be our approach in a human rights context in that police arrest and seize and put a vehicle in a compound and say ‘because we are the police, we could hold it. You all just have to wait’. That can’t be the approach,” said Mr Hawke, an Attorney-at-Law.

The Solicitor General told police officers that the key is to secure the protection of the court very early in such a case to avoid any claim of the violation ofย  fundamental rights. “What you always want is a court order to protect you. You don’t want to be holding a vehicle without the protection of an order of court because if anybody comes and says ‘you have my property, you’re arbitrarily holding my property’,” he said.

He remarked that the Attorney General’s Chambers has in the past assisted the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and the Special Organised Crime Unit to obtain interim detention orders.

Mr Hawke said police must routinely document the apparent health condition of detainees and verify, when necessary, and their ages to avoid detaining juveniles at police stations. “Get a pocket thing and start documenting everything… Let them stay on the bench and they stay on the bench for hours only to find out is a juvenile on the bench and you got them in police custody. You already breach the protocols,” he said,

Meanwhile, the senior police officers were told that a Processing Centre for juveniles would be built by the Human Services and Social Security.

Acknowledging that policing is a “tough job”, he said policing is completely different now and has changed. “It may seem as though it is against you. Not really. All it is asking you to do is develop a level of fairness and engender in your mind that you have to have the citizens rights when you’re contemplating these issues,” he said.

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July 2023