After what has been described as a meteoric rise through the ranks of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Senior Superintendent James Forbes’ career has been thrown into uncertainty following his conviction on corruption charges yesterday.
Head of the JCF’s communications arm, Deputy Superintendent Steve Brown, brushed off questions from journalists following the verdict delivered by Resident Magistrate Stephanie Jackson-Haisley. But according to information found in the Police Services Regulations, Forbes’ future in the JCF now rests with the Police Services Commission.
Section 39 of the regulations reads: “If a member is convicted in any court of a criminal charge, the Commission may consider the relevant proceedings of that court and if the Commission is of the opinion that the member ought to be dismissed or subjected to some lesser punishment in respect of the offence of which he has been convicted, the Commission may, thereupon, recommend the dismissal or other punishment of the member …”
Faces up to three years
Forbes, who was head of the JCF’s Community Safety and Security Branch at the time of his arrest, was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice, and faces up to three years in prison or a fine or a suspended sentence, when he returns to court next Thursday.
The case stemmed from a meeting he admitted facilitating between businessman Bruce Bicknell and two police sergeants at his St Andrew offices, four days after the policemen arrested Bicknell for allegedly offering them a $2,000 bribe during a traffic stop in east Kingston in April 2012.
Prosecutors charged that during the meeting, an agreement was reached to have the case against Bicknell – who had been released on bail – disposed of before it came before the court. But Forbes, through his attorneys, had insisted that no agreement was brokered at the meeting and that he was not aware, at the time, that Bicknell had been charged.
However, while highlighting discrepancies in the prosecution’s case, Jackson-Haisley saved her sharpest rebuke for the senior police officer’s claim that he was not aware that Bicknell had been charged with an offence.
“I reject that outright … . If I were to accept what he said, I would say he dealt with the matter in a cavalier manner. How then could he be sure that what he was doing was lawful?” Haisley-Jackson questioned.
The magistrate said she accepted that the meeting was convened to dispose of the case against Bicknell and slammed Forbes’ claim that it was an attempt at mediation.
“Mediation cannot take place at the NCB [National Commercial Bank] South Towers [Forbes’ offices],” said Jackson-Haisley, who also pointed out that mediation is not permitted in corruption-related cases.
The verdict has left several of Forbes’ colleagues in disbelief.
“I am sad … . Mr Forbes is still a good man and his integrity will still stand. Mr Forbes was the image of the force and still will be the image of the force,” Deputy Superintendent Robblin Wedderburn said, as he fought back tears.