Sat | Jul 20, 2019

Editors' Forum | Uchence Wilson gang trial a landmark case for cops – Commish

Published:Monday | July 8, 2019 | 12:22 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson.

Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson says keen attention is being paid to the high-profile Uchence Wilson gang trial that is putting to the test efforts to upgrade investigative skills.

His disclosure came about two hours before the court freed a third accused in the case last Thursday as he addressed a Gleaner Editors’ Forum. At the start of the trial, Wilson, along with 23 accused accomplices, was being tried for various offences, including breaches of the Criminal Justice Suppression of Criminal Organizations Act (Anti-Gang Legislation), and illegal possession of a firearm. Charges were brought against another alleged gang member in a separate case.

In outlining his achievements since taking over as head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) more than a year ago, Anderson said one of his main focuses was improving the investigative capabilities of the force.

“We were working with Mr [Selvin] Hay – who was the crime chief at the time – and his team [to see how] we push the whole business of investigations and the support to investigations [and] how we look at the gang cases that were in train to make sure that they are substantial enough to actually get convictions in the court,” he said.

“The first one that is actually still playing out now, in terms of the Uchence Wilson Gang. [This] is actually a landmark case and we are watching – I am sure as keenly as you are – to see how it turns out. We have other gangs lined up, but there is quite a bit of precedent being set in this case as we go along,” he told Gleaner editors and reporters.

Two of the alleged gang members, Junior Rose and Shadday Beckford, were freed last Monday after prosecutors indicated that they had no evidence against them. Prosecutors dropped the case against Judith Johnson last Thursday after indicating that they did not have sufficient evidence against her to proceed.

“We haven’t had a case like that before clearly where 23 members of one gang – well, 25, really – are collectively being done,” Anderson said. “That was what was being envisaged, I think, when we established Anti-Gang Legislation to not just look at just the predicate offences, but how we deal with them as a collective. As you know, sometimes when you just arrest the leadership of the gang, new leadership comes up or they split into two gangs, and all of a sudden, you have two gangs with leaders because of the infighting.”

He continued: “Gang infighting, of course, brings about high levels of killings, as we know that a lot of the people killed are gang members killing gang members, young guys who are both the victims and the perpetrators of this.”

The Anti-Gang Legislation was passed in 2014 and makes it an offence for persons to associate or recruit adults or children, whether by force or not, to participate in criminal activity. Conviction under this law carries penalties of up to 25 years and fines of up to J$50 million.