THE CASE OF NOEL CHAMBERS
On January 27, 2020 the Commission commenced an investigation into the death in custody of Noel Chambers of the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre (TSACC). At the time of his death Mr. Chambers was 81 years old. He was incarcerated on February 4, 1980 and had been in prison for 40 years without being tried. He was being held at the Governor General’s pleasure, deemed unfit to plead to a charge of murder.
Therefore he was being held in custody without being convicted for an offence. There seems to be some confusion at the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) regarding whether or not Mr. Chambers was convicted. The Commissioner of Corrections in his report to INDECOM states that “Noel Chambers was tried and convicted in the Home Circuit Court on February 4, 1980, for the offence of murder. He was deemed unfit to plead and was held at the Governor General’s Pleasure.” However, in the Commission’s
respectful opinion he could not have been unfit to plead and convicted. Indeed, his commitment document by the Home Circuit Court has the words ‘guilty of’ struck out and replaced with ‘unfit to plead’.
This distinction is important as it means the difference between a person, with the presumption of innocence, being indefinitely detained as opposed to a convicted person being so detained. Twice Mr Chambers received ‘Fitness for Trial Certificates’ from two different psychiatrists. The first was issued for him on October 10, 2003. It stated: “This inmate has no history of mental illness. Repeated mental examinations revealed that.
What was the immediate cause of his death?
His medical record shows that on November 4, 2019, he was examined because he was not eating well, had poor vision, and flu-like symptoms. He was admitted to Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) between November 21 and 28, 2019. There is a referral on file from TSACC for KPH dated December 15, 2019 having shown a history of hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol; however, there is no evidence on file that he was taken to KPH. On the night before his death, he was found unresponsive by a medical orderly, taken to KPH and thereafter was pronounced dead. The cause of death given at the post mortem examination was acute pyelonephritis (a sudden and severe kidney infection).
At the time of his death he was in a deplorable physical condition. His clothing was filthy and his body showed evidence of chronic emaciation. He was covered with what appeared to be vermin bites, live bedbugs (‘chink’) and he showed signs of having bed sores. (See photographs in appendix. WARNING: the images may appear disturbing to some readers. NB: Permission from the family of Mr. Chambers was granted)
The overall lack of timely and adequate medical attention, in addition to his indefinite incarceration and poor hygiene, highlight serious breaches of his Constitutional rights, the Criminal Justice (Administration) Act (CJAA) and the Correctional Institution Rules. Arising from the death of Noel Chambers, the Commission has initiated a wider enquiry into conditions under which persons unfit to plead are being held at correctional institutions and the procedures afforded to them whilst held at the Court’s pleasure. In seeking these answers, this report will examine:
VIEW THE PHOTOS OF NOEL CHAMBERS BODY HERE CLICK THE LINK BELOW