Jamaica: Police warn against vigilante justice

sherieholder, sherieholder@nationnews.com

Added 19 October 2012

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Oct 19, CMC – The Jamaica police have warned citizens against taking the law into their hands after at least two people were killed by mobs. "Citizens have a duty to report crimes to the police or where possible apprehend felons and hand them over to the police. On no account must anyone inflict punishment on a suspected offender," Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said. He warned that those involved in mob justice would be charged with murder. "Every case of mob killing is classified as murder and will be thoroughly investigated by the police so that those responsible are arrested and charged," Ellington said. A number of civic and human rights groups have deplored the vigilante style justice here with the latest incident occurring last weekend when 29 year-old Dwight Lester, 29, a mason was reportedly set upon by residents after he was allegedly caught breaking into premises in the St. Catherine community. Earlier, an angry mob killed Oral Smith, 23 after he reportedly beat another man to death when his demand for J$100 (One Jamaica dollar = US$0.01 cents) was not met. In September, 41-year-old school teacher Michael Melbourne was chased, beaten and stabbed to death by an angry mob after his vehicle hit four people who were assisting a man who had earlier been a victim of a hit and run accident. Police also reported that 43-year-old Donovan Hazley was killed and his 18-year-old daughter injured after they were attacked by a mob who fire-bombed their home after the deaths of two boys from their community. The residents claimed that the boys were sodomised, even as a post-mortem later showed that they had drowned. Four men have been charged in connection with Hazley's death. Commissioner Ellington said he was “using this opportunity to again warn Jamaicans that they should exercise restraint and have every confidence in the justice system that it is working, rather than seek to by-pass it and engage in the criminal act of mob killing”. Meanwhile, two men wanted by the police in connection with the death of a police officer last month, have been told they need to surrender to the authorities by Friday. The Major Investigation Task Force said the men frequent areas believed to be operated by the notorious Clansman gang.  

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