LETTER OF THE DAY: Don't jump to conclusions
The spectre of corruption seems to envelope all areas of life in Jamaica, and nowhere does its presence create a greater feeling of revulsion than when it is exposed in our police force.
I have observed the visible evidence, in the electronic and printed media, of the renewed drive to excoriate this scourge from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). There's even a toll-free number,I-CORRUPT: and I can understand the increased zeal with which the anti-corruption unit will tackle its assignments, but it is against this very zeal that I would invite the commissioner to caution that department.
The Jamaican mind is very sophisticated, and the Jamaican criminal mind doubly so. Therefore, investigators into corruption must be on guard to ensure that they are not manipulated to thwart, instead of aiding, the course of justice. Criminal minds may seize the opportunity this zeal presents, to attempt to remove from active duty hard-working and dedicated police-men whose front-line presence are dreaded by the underworld.
Let me give an example - I recently had occasion to defend a detective sergeant and his son, who were accused of attempting to accept a bribe in return for withdrawing a charge of larceny of a motor vehicle; the sergeant's defence was that he had never come face to face with this accused/accuser - the vehicle having been recovered by officers under his command. The sergeant, at the time, was selling a motor car, which carried a 'For Sale' sign as well as his telephone number on both windshields. The accused on the larceny charge then telephoned the sergeant offering to purchase the aforesaid motor car and a date and meeting place was agreed between the parties to negotiate the sale.
The dishonesty of the accused on the larceny charge, now accuser in the sting operation, was exposed in the trial of the sergeant because, having claimed to meet with the policeman at a beach in Ocho Rios in broad daylight to negotiate payment of the bribe, he testified that the sting operation took place the next day, and the person who was held in the sting operation was the same person whom he had met with the previous day on the beach.
It transpired, however, that on the date of the sting operation, which in the sergeant's mind was the day for conclusion of the sale of the car, and the only date on which he would have come in contact with the accused (now accuser) he never attended that meeting as he had been called away on some other assignment, and therefore sent his son (20 years his junior) to conclude the sale. The sergeant's defence was therefore confirmed, that the accused (now accuser) had never met with, and therefore never seen him before attending court. The identification of the sergeant having been completely discredited the court thereupon dismissed all charges against the sergeant and his son.
I, therefore, exhort the police, while being resolute in their determination to rid the JCF of corrupt colleagues, to be ever watchful and on the lookout for the possibility that you may be used to frame an innocent colleague - in other words, never jump to conclusions, but approach each and every case with an open mind, with a thorough and professional investigation.
I am, etc.,
HOWARD HAMILTON, QC
26 Duke Street