March 19, 2013
Inaction by police to charge cops a clear breach – DPP

The fact that three police officers have not yet been charged, as has been instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), indicates a “clear breach by the police high command”.{{more}}

DPP Colin Williams told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that, despite his March 8 letter to the Commissioner of Police, which said that Sergeant Julius Morgan, Constable Orlando Collins and Constable Adrian Forde ought to be charged in connection with the December 5, 2012 shooting of Corporal Milford Edwards, no charges have been laid.

Williams said the inaction by the police could suggest to reasonable citizens that the “rule of law is being undermined and our justice system is under threat by no lesser persons than the police themselves”.

Corporal Edwards, a member of the Narcotics Unit (Drug Squad), was shot on the bay front at Rose Place, as he and other members of his unit carried out an operation.

The DPP, in a release dated March 11, said having applied the Full Code Test to the evidence, the charges which ought to be brought againt Sergeant Morgan are unlawful and malicious wounding; unlawful discharge of a firearm; excessive use of force; and acting in a manner so rash or negligent as to be likely to cause harm.

In addition, the release said, Constables Collins and Forde ought to be charged with conspiracy to defeat the course of justice.

“This is not the first time the police have shown utter disregard, disrespect, contempt and reluctance in dealing with directives that they have got from the DPP,” the DPP told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

Williams recalled that in June 2009, when he instructed that police officers Corporal Kasankie Quow and Constables Osrick James and Hadley Ballantyne ought be charged with the November 18, 2008 assault of teenager Jemark Jackson, the police did not charge them until July 9, 2009, almost six weeks later.

Quow, James and Ballantyne were eventually found guilty and, on February 2, 2010,were ordered by Senior Magistrate Donald Browne to pay $1,500 each in one month or spend six months in prison. The officers paid the fine and after being on suspension for almost two years, they returned to active duty on April 19, 2011.

Citing another example, the DPP said it took close to two weeks after he gave instructions for the police to charge Constable Rohan McDowall with the murder of Special Services Unit (SSU) officer Kingsley John. John was killed at the Biabou Police Station on August 7, 2010. McDowall eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and on November 5, 2012, walked out of court a free man, after he was sentenced to two years imprisonment, which he had already served.

The DPP said at times, he has had to threaten Commissioner of Police Keith Miller in order to get him to lay charges.

“On occasions, I have had to threaten the Commissioner with being charged for criminal offences, in relation to his failure to carry out his duties,” Williams said.

According to Williams, Miller could be charged with Neglect of Official Duty and Disobedience of Lawful Orders, which are offences under the criminal code, and carry a penalty of two years imp- risonment.

“To get him to act on a prior occasion, I had to indicate that that was the course of action I was adopting,” Williams said.

“All this is showing the total disrespect and disregard for the rule of law. Whereas we are talking about urging people to come forward as witnesses, how could people have faith in the justice system when the police are behaving in that manner,” Williams said.

The DPP said while he can get the charges laid otherwise, the general practice is that since the police have collected

the evidence, they should lay the charge, once the DPP has reviewed the evidence and says there is sufficient evidence to charge.

He said once the DPP has instructed that a charge should be laid, the police have no discretion in this matter.

“Even where the police have laid a charge, the DPP can say there is not enough evidence to support that charge, or go for an alternative charge, or additional charges,” Williams said.

“The prosecution of matters really is in the province of the DPP. The police are really investigators…even if the charges are labelled in the name of the Commissioner of Police, it is really the DPP who determines what charges go forward.”

When SEARCHLIGHT tried to reach Commissioner Miller yesterday, we were told that he is out of state.

The acting Commissioner is Deputy Commissioner (Ag) Michael Charles, who confirmed that Morgan, Collins and Forde had not yet been charged.

He, however, told SEARCHLIGHT that while the officers had not yet been charged, “they will be”.

When asked if the delay showed “disregard, disrespect, contempt and reluctance” in dealing with directives from the DPP, Charles said, “it may seem that way, but it is not that way”.