Justice system stalls INDECOM - Almost 100 cases against cops moving at snail’s pace through the courts
More than 95 cases involving cops charged with various crimes, including murder, by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) are meandering through the court system as several issues delay the quest for justice.
This has caused INDECOM head Terrence Williams to express concern that the delay in some cases, dating as far back as 2011, could result in justice being denied.
"We have just above 90 cases before the court. Since we have started, the DPP (director of public prosecutions) has dismissed one case and we have had four other cases of convictions," Williams told The Sunday Gleaner.
"A lot of these cases are in waiting. Some of them are going on six years now awaiting trial. It is a source of concern. The cases are ready for trial and have been ready for trial for a long while, but they have been adjourned for a variety of reasons," added Williams.
He said INDECOM continues to encourage witnesses to stay the course and not to lose hope, but he is conscious that the longer the cases take to go to trial is the greater the risk that some of the witnesses might be lost along the way.
"As time passes, witnesses' memories might fade, persons may leave the country, persons may pass away from natural causes, so it is a concern," said Williams.
Mario Deane case
One such case that is yet to be disposed of by the courts is the August 2014 killing of Mario Deane.
Deane, who was 31 years old at the time of the incident, died three days after he was severely beaten while in custody at the Barnett Street police lock-up. He had been arrested hours before for a ganja spliff.
Corporal Elaine Stewart, District Constable Juliana Clevon, and District Constable Marlon Grant, who were on duty at the time of Deane's death, were charged with manslaughter, misconduct in a public office, and perverting the course of justice. The court is still hearing evidence in the matter following several delays.
Constables Kenroy Hines and Damane Campbell, who were charged with the murder of 28-year-old firefighter Andrew Brydson, his brother, 24-year-old Triston Brydson, and their 38-year-old cousin, Kingsley Green, in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland, in March 2013 are also yet to learn their fate.
The men were killed during an alleged shoot-out with the police, but their deaths resulted in days of protest by angry residents, who insisted that the police killed the trio in cold blood.
Another case which INDECOM has ready for trial, having submitted a complete file for the matter, but it has dragged on, is the March 2012 shooting of schoolgirl Vanessa Kirkland.
Kirkland was shot and killed after policemen reportedly shot at the vehicle in which she was a passenger. The three accused constables are Anakay Bailey, Dervin Hayles and Andrewain Smith.
Former justice minister Mark Golding, who is now opposition spokesperson on justice, argued that the problems facing INDECOM are not unique as there is a significant backlog of various categories of cases before the courts.
"The reality is we need to make additional investment in the justice system, capital investments, so that we have the courtrooms, the judges and the support staff and equipment that can tackle the volume that now exists in the system," said Golding.
The man who replaced Golding in the justice portfolio, Delroy Chuck, agreed that there is a need for additional resources in the court system to speed up the process.
According to Chuck, he is working to tackle the shortage of resources, judges, prosecutors and court space, as he intends to propose changes to the Constitution for judges to work beyond the age of 70, and to put in a Cabinet submission for at least 10 additional prosecutors.
"What I am really hoping is that in a short space of time, instead of four trial courts at the Supreme Court, we can have eight. So you will appreciate that, hopefully, we can move them off as quickly as possible," said Chuck.
"And then also in the circuit courts, we are hoping that the judges will be able to sit in circuit courts in the parishes longer than the three weeks, probably up to six weeks and, hopefully, on a permanent basis.
"But I am hoping that before the end of the year, there could be an expansion and a completion of more of these cases. All we want to do is ensure that all the cases over five years are tried this year."