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Is there a chasm between the Office of the DPP and the Police Service?

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We sense that there is a distance between the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Police Service and that the distance may be widening.

In our Midweek edition of Tuesday, April 5, we published a story for which we interviewed DPP Colin Williams and the head of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) Ruth Jacobs.{{more}} What was surprising to us is that the DPP and the CID head are not on the same page, or even in the same book, regarding the necessity of a report from a virtual complainant for an assault charge to be laid and the usefulness of video evidence when virtual complainants do not co-operate.

The DPP was adamant that the law has always been that a victim does not need to testify or make a complaint for a charge to be laid and that video evidence has always been admissible in court. He said that once evidence is available to establish that an offence was committed, a person can be tried in a court of law. The CID head however told us that if the virtual complainant does not make a report, the police are unable to make an arrest.

What is really going on here? Is there no co-ordination between these two vital arms of the justice system and do the police not seek the advice of the Office of the DPP when unclear about if and what charge can be laid?

This is not the first time that evidence of this chasm has come to the attention of the public. In 2009, it took police six weeks, after being instructed to do so by the DPP, for them to arrest and charge three police officers who were later found guilty of causing actual bodily harm to a 15-year-old. The following year, police released from custody, a fellow officer, even after the DPP had given instructions that the police officer be charged with three criminal offences including murder. In March 2013, the DPP, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT disclosed that so far for that year, there had been three occasions on which he had referred matters to the police and they failed to act. Then in 2014, the DPP dropped from his prosecuting team, a police officer, who when telephoned by the DPP, said he was eating and would return the call. Days later, the police officer had reportedly not returned the call.

This state of affairs is worrying for neither of these vital arms of our justice system can effectively function without co-operation from the other. Also disconcerting, is the apparent reluctance of the police high command, in some cases, to carry out instructions from the DPP to charge offenders within the police service. This is not good as it adds to the public perception there is official collusion to shelter offenders within the bosom of the police service. The DPP has also spoken publicly about what he views as the bungling of some investigations by the police.

The chasm between the two departments goes back years and pre-dates the tenure of the current Commissioner of Police or the current head of CID. It however cannot be allowed to persist as it has grave implications for the administration of justice and the confidence of our citizens in it. Is it that there is disagreement between the two departments about the criteria that need to be met for someone to be successfully prosecuted?

It is time to bring an end to this disturbing charade so that the confidence of our citizens in all arms of law enforcement is not further eroded. The effective functioning of our law enforcement system is more important than the egos of those involved or any power plays that may be taking place between departments.

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