15 November 2009

Bullets Can’t Kill Crime

John Maxwell

There are studies enough and statistics galore to prove to the most ignorant and obscurantist amongst us that retaliatory crime and violence is not a policy to defeat crime or criminality.
Crime is a symptom of a diseased society and we can no more 'solve' crime by killing criminals than we can solve terrorism by exterminating people identified as "terrorists".
In Afghanistan the world is now recognising these truisms – after thousands of deaths, of American and European soldiers, of Taliban guerrillas, Al Qaeda terrorists and after spending billions on a wild goose chase and slaughter of innocent Afghans, Pakistanis and others, caught in the crossfire of a misbegotten "War on Terror". In the process we have destroyed cultures and ecologies, economies and communities, all without making any serious progress toward the stated objective. Using the present means guarantees comprehensive failure, as in Vietnam and Cambodia, and as over and over in Afghanistan itself from the time of Alexander the Great to the present day.
Right after '9/11' some of us pointed out that it was impossible to wage war on an abstraction; that terrorism was an abstraction with no central command; that 'terrorism' was the last resort of the hopeless, the anthem of the desperate in the last extremity of their attempts to communicate their misery, their thirst for justice. . As Fidel Castro points out, bullets can kill the poor, but bullets can't kill poverty; bullets can kill the hopeless and the hungry; bullets cannot kill hopelessness and bullets cannot kill hunger.

A Summons to Justice

    One Friday morning more than 40 years ago I was at my Editor's desk at Public Opinion, the weekly political review, when I got a phone call from Jamaica's very first Director of Public Prosecutions, Huntley Monroe, QC.

"Maxwell," he said,"I have read your editorial in this morning's paper and I must tell you that if you cannot justify every word of it it will be my duty to put you behind bars."
There were actually two editorials titled
Was it Murder ? – I
Was it Murder ? – II
Both concerned unlawful killing. The second was about the lynching of men in Padmore, Red Hills, on suspicion of being goat thieves and called for the DPP's intervention.
The first was about the killing of a young waiter of the Courtleigh Manor Hotel by a policeman named George Porter.

George Porter was a policeman who had a year or so earlier, assaulted me and charged me with using indecent language, obstructing a policeman in his duty, resisting arrest and assaulting him and another policeman at a police roadblock at Constant Spring. The details of the fracas were recorded rather imaginatively in the Star under the headline:

"Editor charged with Cursing, Cop-beating."

I was innocent but that was no excuse on the night. I was dragged to the Halfway Tree Police Station where Porter and some other cops, one a woman. tried to drag me upstairs to give me a 'proper beating.' I resisted and they eventually desisted. My then wife had meanwhile woken up my publisher, O.T. Fairclough, a JP and a man of some presence, who came and bailed me.
One result of all this was my being found guilty on the lying evidence of Cons Porter and one of his accomplices. I was fined £2 each on the 'bad word' and assault charges and had to pay £2 each for teeth I had allegedly knocked out of Porter's mouth.
The other consequence was to prove much more serious for Porter. I lost my front door key in the second fracas at the cop shop.
A friend of mine, Rolly Simms, a Communist who farmed a piece of land in Mocho, now destroyed by bauxite mining, was a director of the Citrus Growers Association and stayed at my house whenever the CGA and or JAS had directors meetings in Kingston.
Sometime after my soiree with Cons Porter, Rolly came to town, went to my house and found that I wasn't home and my door key was not in its usual place. He went down to the Courtleigh for supper and heard that one of the waiters, a person he knew, had ben shot and killed the night before as he made his way home after collecting his week's pay.

According to the story in the Sunday Gleaner, Constable George Porter had been on duty in the Holborn Road gully area on Friday night in response to 'numerous' reports of a robber operating in the area. On the night, Porter had accosted a suspicious individual who, when challenged had attacked the constable with a huge clasp knife and the constable, in self-defence, had had to shoot the highwayman.

But Rolly heard a different story at the Courtleigh. The waiter, Cassells, was a slight fellow and his sole weapon was a small penknife with a picture of a naked lady on the handle. Cassells himself was not only small, he was meek and peace-loving. Further, his colleagues and family wanted to know what had happened to his pay-packet, his wallet, and the bicycle he had been riding?
When Rolly told me the story and I told him who Porter was we were both determined to follow the trail to the end.
Through the Courtleigh workers we soon found a taxi driver who had been parked in the bushes where the Towers now stand on Dominica Drive. (The area was said to be a lover's lane.) When I heard THE TAXI DRIVER'S STORY I asked Kenny McNeill, one of Jamaica's foremost surgeons to attend the autopsy. When Kenny got to the morgue he was told the autopsy had been held earlier than scheduled and burial ordered.
When Huntley Monroe phoned me I told him some of what the taxi driver had told us and about the phantom autopsy.
THE TAXI DRIVER SAID there had been no attack by Cassells - who was about six inches shorter than Porter and about thirty pounds lighter.
What happened was that Porter, in plain clothes, had constituted himself into a one man crime-wave. He had waylaid Cassells as he had ambushed others before; Cassells who like Porter came from Kellitts, recognised his schoolmate.
Cassels last words were something like:
"But a no you dat George?"
to which the reply was a savage 'pistol-whipping' ended by several gunshots, many in Cassells' back.
When Kenny McNeill reported on the phantom autopsy, the DPP at my suggestion, ordered an exhumation of the body and a second, real autopsy. The results from Kenny, were devastating. Cassells had been savagely beaten as we contended and shot in the back.
Porter was guilty as charged and sentenced to hang.
We don't hang policemen in Jamaica as a rule, no matter how serious their crimes. As I was a known opponent of capital punishment, Porter's supporters knew they could count on my signature on the petition to the Governor General.
Porter's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
In 1972 the government of Michael Manley wanted to pardon a man who had been in prison, many thought, wrongfully, for the manslaughter of several fellow policemen who had tormented the young policeman – Roy Morgrage – beyond endurance. His 'crime' had been committed in 1948, and he had been in prison for 24 years, well beyond the normal life sentence. He had been kept in prison by police pressure. No matter how gross the provocation they felt, Morgrage had killed policemen.
Many people had long felt that Morgrage should never have been convicted, but for what seemed a specially selected jury and that even had he been properly convicted, his sentence was excessive. When the police federation heard of Morgrage's impending pardon all hell broke loose. The police demanded Porter's pardon in return for not making problems about Morgrage.
In the eyes of the police the offences appeared, somehow, comparable. Morgrage, tormented, humiliated abused and sexually threatened reacted in blind desperation seizing the first instrument to hand to end a programme of merciless persecution.
George Porter, who murdered a civilian in cold blood was given full support by the police and by certain members of the press and of the legal profession. He spent one third of Morgrage's time in prison, under considerably better conditions.
Both, I believe are now living abroad. I tell the story because there is now an artificially created frenzy, a supposed ''popular movement' to install one of Jamaica's most volatile men as Commissioner of Police.
I believe that the director of Public Prosecutions should do for Mr Reneto Adams what her predecessor did for me, so long ago. She should facilitate him in discharging his clear public duty, particularly because of the nature of the job he covets
Mr Adams a little while ago, while discussing the vacancy in the office of Commissioner, made some statements about criminal behaviour in certain places, in politics and among human rights organisations.
These statements were so serious that I believe if they are true they must be pursued with the utmost rigour.
I believe that Miss Paula Llewellyn QC. has a statutory duty to ask Mr Reneto Adams for further and better particulars and if he cannot produce them, to do what Huntley Monroe threatened to do to me four decades ago – prosecute for criminal libel.
Copyright©2009John Maxwell jankunnu@gmail.com

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