Prosecution not making use of forensic evidence – Bacchus-Baptiste
While the government has made strides in certain areas of crime fighting, more attention needs to be placed on forensics.
“Many cases that I have done the prosecution has failed wholly to make use of forensic evidence. They may come, mark out the scene, take exhibits etcetera, and nothing happens to them (exhibits), or you send them away and you never get a reply or report,” veteran lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste told a press briefing at Democrat House last Tuesday.
She said that if we are to see more persons pay for the violent crimes they commit, the police force needs to up its forensics game.
“Even ballistics reports, even long ago you use to get more reports from experts matching ballistics with evidence, with the gun etcetera. Now, you hardly get back reports. They (police) seem to base their evidence out of beating a confession out of the defendants, or hoping that they have enough witnesses who would have seen, but most times when crimes are committed nobody is there to give eye witness evidence,” noted Bacchus-Baptiste.
She added, “the forensics in St. Vincent is sadly lacking, even a simple thing as taking photograph evidence, you will be surprised,”Bacchus-Baptiste claimed that in many cases, police photographers take pictures and when the case reaches to court, the pictures are never presented.
“Either they are overexposed, so they are no good, or they never bother to even produce the photographs, or when you see the photographs they are so dark you cannot really understand what they are,” Bacchus-Baptiste told reporters.
She noted also that in her opinion, fingerprinting is a thing of the past.
“…something drastic has to be done about it,” said the criminal lawyer, who has been involved in several high-profile cases over the years.
She however praised the government for introducing the Witness Special Measures Act where persons can testify via video link, but noted that this type of testimony is sometimes problematic.
“The jury is deprived of the actual presence, the emotion, and it could turn out to not be beneficial to the defense, because sometimes when the witness is on the stand you can better look at the demeanor and determining whether they are telling lies or not, so it removes that advantage and gives the crown an advantage,” noted Bacchus-Baptiste, adding that this Act can also be used for the defense, and there are cases where witnesses give evidence for the defense, by video link from overseas.
She noted also that there are instances where witnesses have been relocated, but this is very costly and therefore is reserved for serious cases, but if we are looking after the safety of witnesses, then we must afford it.
Going further, Bacchus-Baptiste said that the administration has increased the number of cases heard by allowing the assizes to run for almost the entire year, but persons on remand still cannot have their trials done in a timely manner and a trial taking too long is not good for the victim or the person/persons charged.
Bacchus-Baptiste also noted that it is time we look at introducing a sexual offenders’ registry.