Understanding the Law
November 27, 2009
Justice must be done

By the time this newspaper reaches you the referendum on the constitution will already be history. We would continue to explain it if it is passed if not then we would cease our discussions.

So many things with legal impact have been happening around us and we may as well get back to discussions on some of the burning issues.{{more}} Some weeks ago we saw via the newspaper a joyful crowd in the court yard celebrating the dismissal of the charges against two defendants who were tried for the murder of three youths. The young men were gunned down execution style in broad daylight in Lowmans Hill.

Regardless of the track record of these youths they did not deserve to die in this manner. The dismissal is celebration for some families but horror for others. The decision would have been the right one based on the evidence put before the jury but what does it say for our justice system. The fact remains that persons were killed at the hands of other persons and no one is held accountable. Is it that we cannot catch the criminal or is there a break down in the investigative system that it cannot bring the right person to trial? Is it that the criminals are too smart for the police or is it that their ability to find evidence is poor? Counsel for the defence claimed that it was the weakest case that was ever brought before the courts. And even though we hear this rhetoric from time to time this is an outright indictment of the prosecution’s case.

The two defendants place themselves away from the crime scene. One claimed to be in Kingstown while the other claimed to be in Spring Village and both got information about the killings via cell phone. According to the judge the defendants had given their cellular phone to the police and the police would have been able to determine every call that the men made or received but yet no evidence was led. The judge felt that they could have brought evidence to show when the calls were made or received. If they had evidence showing they were elsewhere and not at the crime scene then the police should have been looking for some other person to stand trial. The prosecution had a duty to prove that the alibis were false. There is also a duty to bring credible witnesses and by extension credible evidence.

Another case followed the next day (Thursday, November 5, 2009 and again no one was held accountable. The reason for the acquittal was that the prosecution’s main witness was not in court. The court was told that the police could not locate him and that there is a possibility that he was out of the state. This is a dismal message for us in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is true that persons have to go about their business to meet there daily needs but more effort could be made by the police to ensure attendance. Some time ago we knew that they were keeping a witness somewhere overseas to make her available to give evidence. Why was the whereabouts of this witness unknown? Our justice system has to do better than this so that justice would not only be done but must be seen to be done. Perhaps more attention to the investigative method and more training for our investigators would go a long way to improve our system.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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