Justice delayed

Justice Carla Brown-Antoine -
Justice Carla Brown-Antoine -

THE VERDICT has come in and no party can be satisfied. 

The families of the three friends killed in Moruga on July 22, 2011, have invoked God’s wrath and cry out for justice. 

The six officers charged with the triple murder are free to go but they will not soon move on: they are owed back pay and promotions; there is talk of suing the State. 

Erla Harewood-Christopher, the Commissioner of Police, has lamented the loss of life in the case and highlighted the need for officers “to be more proficient in the standard operating procedures.”

But if there is anything uniting all of those with an interest in the court proceedings that came to an end before Justice Carla Brown-Antoine last Friday, it is that all can add to their list of grievances a simple fact. 

One of the biggest culprits in this case was delay.

It is the 12-year delay between the events under adjudication and last Friday’s legal determination that paved the way for a main witness becoming hostile. 

While hostile witnesses are routine developments in trials, they are more likely to feature in cases that drag on and on.  

It is delay, too, that continues to place inordinate pressures on the State’s witness protection programme, a programme that featured significantly in this matter. The main witness alleged the programme was “inhumane” and walked out.

It is delay that also heightens the sense of wounds being reopened: the mother of one of the victims this week said she feels her son was murdered all over again. 

Meanwhile, Moruga has been reminded of what occurred in 2011 at the exact moment when the police service is trying, nationally, to repair its frayed relationships with communities amid the continuing onslaught of criminality.

And because this case took so long to be resolved, the officers charged, who have been found not guilty, will never be able to revert to life before 2011. Whether they are compensated or not, they have already paid a price in the form of years of incarceration; years of separation from their families; years under the pall of these proceedings.

The nation will not soon forget the spectre of a trial in which seven, then six, police officers stood in the prisoner’s dock charged with murder. 

But for all its extraordinary features, this case has turned out in other ways to be the most ordinary of trials, amounting to a perfect case study of the deficiencies of our criminal justice system.

Chief  Justice Ivor Archie is worried about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the courts. AI is undoubtedly a challenge on the horizon. But the Chief Justice need only look to this trial to witness the bread-and-butter issues facing the criminal justice system.


"Justice delayed"

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