Judge cleans filthy police cells

Main Stories, National


WABAG police were shocked and embarrassed when Enga’s resident judge Justice Graham Ellis walked into the condemned police cells and got down on his hands and knees and cleaned it up yesterday morning.
After waiting so long for Government authorities to do something about the inhuman conditions of the cells, the outspoken judge decided to take matters into his own hands.
Wearing gum boots and hand gloves, and armed with buckets and a water hose, Justice Ellis and his National Court staff went to the police station and cleaned the cells.
Red-faced with embarrassment, policemen offered to assist but the judge and his staff declined their offer.
They cleaned out and scrubbed the five cells and the blocked toilets.
Acting provincial police commander Chief Insp Martin Lakari said yesterday he was embarrassed that a very respected and honoured person in the country got down on his hands and knees to clean a condemned police cell.
He said he was speechless with shame when his men went to assist, but the judge and his staff declined their offer.
When word spread through the small town of the action of the judge, residents and community leaders held their heads low in shame.
They were also angry that the judge was forced to do this because of the failure of leaders and Government officials to act.
The Wabag police cell blocks were condemned in 2006 by a health inspector as filthy and unfit for human occupation. A major renovation was recommended, but nothing happened.
In 2007, former provincial police chief Supt Michael Chare asked the Works division in Wabag to carry out scoping and to establish what was needed to be done and how much it would cost.
No response came even though a second approach was made last October.
On Feb 15, the late Supt Chare informed Justice Ellis of this lack of progress.
On Feb 20, the judge declared that the police cell was not good to house any convicted prisoner or remandee, and warned police that if they did, they would breach the basic rights of those persons under sections 36, 37(1) and 37(17) of the Constitution.
He also requested the district Works coordinator to provide a written report to the National Court in Wabag on March 8 to outline what would be done and when.
Justice Ellis also requested the police commissioner to fax a written report to the Wabag National Court by March 8 detailing when the Wabag police cells would be upgraded.
Its outcome is not known.