Bert Samuels | Planting guns on young men
INDECOM's first quarterly report for 2018 has exposed the embarrassing, evil, and egregious issue of recycled firearms leaving the safe custody of the police and finding themselves on the bodies of dead 'wanted men'. The ghost that haunts defence lawyers and, more so, the innocent accused, is the allegation that a gun planted by a vigilant and corrupt police officer was 'found' in his possession.
Very often, a judge of the Gun Court, sitting without a jury, has to choose between a young man's say-so that it was the police who 'put the gun' on him and the sworn testimony of a uniformed crime fighter. In short, it is a choice between the account of the civilian and that of the police.
Because of the prevalence of guns in the hands of criminals and the terror guns pose for so many of our citizens, judges who convict are trained to take into account the high incidence of illegal guns on our streets and impose harsh penalties.
We cannot survive chaos without the hard work of the police. We have 119 in the back of our minds when we are under attack as we are all potential victims in crime-riddled Jamaica. It is this dependence on those who are sworn to protect and serve us that makes this issue of gun-planting so worrisome. How many men - tried, convicted, and sentenced - are the victims of evidence-planting is more than a scary question. As much as we hate crime, we must abhor the conviction of the innocent more.
But for the evidence in 2014 of a JDF soldier who was part of a police-military patrol, David Clarke, my client, may have been convicted for possession of a loaded M16 rifle magazine. The police had given sworn statements that they took it from his pocket.
The soldier who had recovered it from the bushes near Clarke, in the interest of justice, came forward and contradicted the police officers. He made the startling revelation that the officers were not even on the scene but that they got involved when he took the magazine to them at their CIB office!
Taxpayers had to pay Clarke more than $6 million in 2017 for breach of his constitutional rights, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment. Those police officers remain in the force with the lapse of four years since their perversion of justice was exposed in this highly publicised case.
Body cameras, please come to the rescue! We need to take in the guns, not put behind bars innocent young men, thereby undermining confidence in the police officers who need that said youth to provide information to them to root out the heartless gunmen from among us!