Editorial | When justice is delayed
In November 2010, at the public session of the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) annual conference, Bruce Golding, the then prime minister and JLP leader, urged a thorough and speedy investigation of murder conspiracy allegations against James Robertson.
"It is not fair to James to have this matter hanging over his head," Mr Golding said. Mr Golding was right then, as he remains nearly six years later. For it has emerged that this matter is still pending.
But it is not Mr Robertson who, by this long delay, has been denied justice. Recent public revelations about the conduct and management of this investigation by the former Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green, reported by the Miami Herald newspaper, threaten to bring crucial Jamaican law and order, criminal justice and political institutions into disrepute. The matter, therefore, demands urgent attention.
Mr Robertson is not just any other Jamaican. He is a member of parliament, a deputy leader of his party, a former minister of government and, on the face of it, a successful businessman. If the system can't work speedily and efficiently for him, it is more than reasonable for other people to ask what they can expect of it for themselves.
According to Mr Green, in that Miami Herald report of a week ago, he felt that there was good evidence on which to lay charges in this case. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn disagreed, revealing last week that the intended witnesses had credibility issues, which caused her to demand other corroborating evidence. In any event, she argued, Mr Green, if he was convinced of his case, could have independently proceeded. Mr Green, an Englishman who has since left Jamaica, has not been assuaged by that argument. He has rightly raised the inefficacy and, not least, the awkwardness of the police proceeding with a major and complex criminal matter in the absence of support from the prosecutor's office.
LACK OF WITNESS PROTECTION
Apart from the specific legal issues that are the subject of disagreement, there is Mr Green's claim that the national security ministry declined to support overseas relocation for a critical witness, who then bolted the system.
The DPP has apparently now made a formal ruling on the case, based on the files before her office. The police must now announce whether it remains an open case in which Mr Robertson remains a subject of investigation. Or they can indicate that the file is closed, and say why, so there can be no doubt that their best professional judgement has been brought to the process.
Should the police believe that the case is still worth investigating, it would be in the best interest of his party if Mr Robertson steps aside as deputy leader, or prevailed upon to do so, until the process is completed. At the same time, it has been a week since the current minister announced the review of the files to determine matters relating to the witness-protection issues in the case. By now, he can see clearly what happened.