Monday, 26 July 2021 14:09

SSP James Forbes back on the job following acquittal on criminal charges

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Senior Superintendent of Police James Forbes will return to his high-profile job this Wednesday following advice late last week from the Police Service Commission that he has been reinstated after being freed of corruption charges.

The veteran cop said his reinstatement brings an end to a bitter period of anguish for himself and his family, coming after he was charged, convicted, and then freed of corruption in late February this year.

At the time of his arrest and charge, on August 22, 2012, he was head of the consequential Community Safety and Security Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). His wide-ranging portfolio kept the national spotlight on him.

“It has been a gruelling journey and a lot of anguish for me and my family. But the quashing of my conviction, and now the reinstatement, are a manifestation of the justice system which I believe in and served uninterrupted for 32 years,” Forbes said yesterday.

“I am glad it's over. The official reinstatement now closes the loop completely,” declared Forbes, who turns 60 in November this year.

The senior cop has planned a full itinerary to mark his first day back on the job in dramatic style, including brief meetings and courtesy calls with Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson and heads of organisations representing the rank and file of the JCF.

He will first do a meet and greet with the management and staff of the Community Safety and Security Branch and later whirlwind stops at the Corporate Communications Unit, the latest iteration of the police information arm; Crime Stop, which first brought him to prominence; the Jamaica Police Federation; and the Police Officers' Association.

He will top that off with a private lunch with key supporters at the swanky AC Hotel by Marriott near New Kingston.

Forbes was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice in 2014 after a trial in the then Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, stemming from a meeting he moderated between businessman Bruce Bicknell and two police sergeants at his St Andrew office.

At the rate he was progressing through the ranks of the JCF, Forbes was on a trajectory to likely hit the position of top cop when the charge and conviction for perverting the course of justice brought a screeching halt to a stellar career.

The senior cop was implicated in the alleged destruction of a case file prepared against Bicknell, who had earlier been accused of offering a bribe to two policemen to tear up a traffic ticket for speeding issued during a traffic stop in east Kingston.

But Forbes insisted that no such agreement had been reached and that he was unaware, at the time of the meeting, that Bicknell had been formally charged. He was found guilty by the magistrate, while Bicknell and Portland Western Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz, who was charged jointly with him, were later freed.

Forbes was sentenced to a fine of $800,000 or six months in prison.

He appealed the case in 2018, and on February 26, 2021, at a virtual sitting, the Appeal Court tossed the conviction and ordered that the $800,000 paid by the policeman be returned to him forthwith.

That sum has not yet been repaid, Forbes said yesterday, and when asked, expressed pessimism about getting any interest on the money as “Government does not pay interest, and that is not likely ever to happen”.

In an earlier interview , he bemoaned people in the police force whom he accused of “trampling on my service and my reputation, and technically putting me out of a job”, for their role in his charge and conviction.

“But now is a time of celebration. I have my hard-earned reputation back, and I am looking forward rather than backward,” said the jubilant Forbes, a father of five.

Born in the sprawling violence-prone slums of 1970s west Kingston, Forbes, who never met his mother or father, overcame abject poverty to become a rising star in the police force, making his mark as the articulate chairman of the Police Federation, speaking for rank-and-file cops.

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