26 November 2012

Liberia: Courts Blamed for Jail-Breaks

The Liberia National Police may appear to be shifting blames on the Judiciary and prosecution for the numerous and perpetual jail breaks at various prisons. According to the LNP, its job is over when suspects are investigated, charged and sent to court.

Reacting to public perceptions that police was accountable for jail-break by dangerous criminals, Police Director Chris Massaquoi argued at the Police Training Academy on Saturday that after criminals shall have been charged and sent to court, they fall directly under the jurisdiction of the court and prosecution.

"Now, you have to know that we have a criminal justice component in this country- that is the judiciary, and to a very large extent, the prosecution; and, there is a revolving chain; the police cannot do it on its own."

"We will arrest, apprehend, charge and take to court...and in most cases, they are remanded at the central prison and the police's job is over," said Massaquoi.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony of 99 police trainees at the National Police Training Academy in Paynesville, the Police Chief appealed that the entire process be reviewed by the prosecution and Judiciary in regard to the protection of life and property.

He observed that the public continue to suggest that in certain instances, criminals return to the street from prison to make the work harder for the police, saying "we do not want dangerous armed robbers repeating those offenses and coming right back into the streets of Monrovia."

Citing some recent successful efforts by police in fighting crimes, Director Massaquoi recalled the arrests and re-arrests of over 25 notorious and escaped criminals in Grand Gedeh County following a major jail-break at the Zwedru Correction Palace. He noted that among the more than 25 convicted criminals were those serving life sentences for various crimes, while others were serving long term sentences.

"Thank the men and women of the ERU and PSU, who raided all escapees and then rearrested and returned them to the palace; we regret that two of the escapees lost their lives in a shootout with the police," Director Massaquoi.

He said many of these criminals were arrested during the Police operation dubbed: "Safe Haven"... But in response, Deputy Justice Minister for Administration and Public Safety Freddie Taylor said the Justice Ministry cannot change the process requested by Director Massaquoi.

"We also want to let you know that the laws on the book were met there by all of us; the Ministry of Justice only enforces the law, and laws are there that guarantee, safe guard bails, bonds for certain crisis or crimes- that we cannot change," said Minister Taylor.

He, however, buttressed Director Massaquoi's call to the public, saying "because you see a criminal on the street one week later doesn't mean that he had bribed anybody."

Minister Taylor said the laws allow for bail, bond for certain crisis or crimes, adding "as we speak now, there are a law review, amendment, and repeal in process to make those [friendlier] and bring them to international standards."

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