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BARBADOS FORENSIC CENTRE WITHHOLDS DRUG TESTS RESULTS

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Since payment became necessary for the testing of evidence in drugs related cases as of January this year, the Royal St Vincent Police Force has amassed a bill of over EC$15,000, owed to the Forensic Sciences Centre in Barbados. And until that bill is paid persons on trial for drug related matters may have a prolonged wait for their day in Court.

At least one case in which a Jamaican is accused of possession of cocaine could be dismissed for lack of prosecution when the case is called again next month and unless some arrangement can be made other cases could follow suit.{{more}}

Bertram Stapleton, attorney for Jamaica Egbert Lewis, complained last week that his client was in jail since January waiting trial but that the results had not been received from Barbados.

Investigations by SEARCHLIGHT revealed that the evidence was received in Barbados on July 28. It was analysed within two weeks but because St Vincent has not paid its bill, the results could not be released.

President of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association, Nicole Sylvester, expressed concern on the development indicating that it might be an infringement of the human rights of the accused drug traffickers. And she is encouraging defense attorneys of such persons to use the full weight of the law to press for justice for their clients.

Acting Commissioner of Police Bertie Pompey told SEARCHLIGHT that the new arrangement in Barbados was causing financial headaches. In addition, sometimes Barbados could not take the samples due to their workload.

He said that in an effort to reduce cost the police accumulates samples from several cases before dispatching them to Barbados. Other costs include airfare for a police officer to travel to Barbados and per diem for the stay in the island.

Sylvester is calling on the prosecution to give full and frank disclosure on the nature of the delays in the interest of justice. She further stated that in cases where defendants meet the necessary requirements there should be no objection to bail because defendants should not be made to pay for the police’s financial woes or the Forensic Centre’s workload.

Stapleton agrees saying that people are being imprisoned because of failure in the legal system. Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Colin Williams felt that drug dealers are being portrayed as “martyrs”. Williams said that he doesn’t see what the issue is adding that every effort is made to speed up trials but some delays cannot be avoided. As it concerns adjournment of cases Williams said that it is a decision to be made by the magistrates and not the prosecution.

The DPP said that drug dealers must know that if they can’t serve the time they should not commit the crime.

Assistant Superintendent of Police, Michael Charles of the Narcotics Division said that because of the high quantity of marijuana grown in St Vincent a large number of marijuana cases are brought before the courts requiring the need for more forensic testing.

There is hopefully a light at the end of the dark tunnel as there are moves to build a forensics science centre here.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Godfred Pompey, confirmed that space has already been allocated at the Milton Cato Memorial hospital for the centre. The ministry of health has already advertised for a forensic scientist and a technologist. Although he could not give a set date Pompey said that the centre should be in operation in the not too distant future.

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