It is an indisputable fact that the Royal Barbados Police Force has served this country with great distinction.
It also unquestionable that some of the most committed and honourable Barbadians have served and continue to serve in the establishment.
But today the reputation of the force is under a bleak cloud, perhaps unprecedented in its post- colonial history. And it all has to do with the now dismissed case of the Commissioner of Police versus Derick Crawford.
It is a messy matter that will not go away and Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin cannot but give complete ventilation on all the related facts now that the criminal case has been adjudicated.
Indeed, the case is of such far- reaching consequences that Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite, whether at a private consultative level with the force’s hierarchy, or publicly, must let his voice be heard on this unique affair.
We are told that in criminal matters, especially offences against the person, the evidence of the “virtual complainant” is of critical importance. We are also told that in criminal matters where identification of suspects is critical to solving the alleged offence, victims of crime are afforded the opportunity to see the perpetrator(s) under investigation.
We have been informed that only one of the two rape victims, Rachel Turner and Diane Davies, got the opportunity to see a line-up of suspects that included Crawford because the other was out of the Barbados jurisdiction at the time of his arrest.
The two Britons subsequently indicated publicly, in Barbados and their homeland, that Crawford was not their attacker.
The rules related to criminal identification as set down in Turnbull are interesting. In R v Turnbull 1976, 63 Cr App R 132, the court said that “when the quality of an identification is good in such instances as when made after a long period of observation, or in satisfactory conditions by a relative, a neighbour, a close friend, a workmate and the like, the jury can safely be left to assess the value of the identifying evidence even though there is no other evidence to support it”.
The court also noted that when the quality of the identifying evidence is poor, as for example, when it depends solely on a fleeting glance, or on a longer observation made in difficult conditions, the situation is very different. It was determined that a judge should withdraw the case from the jury and direct an acquittal unless there is other evidence which goes to support the correctness of the identification.
But here we have a unique case that stretches those legal guidelines. The question of identification is not in dispute. The victims categorically stated, post the charging of Crawford, that he was not their attacker. And, whether they were mistaken, suffering from diminished sensory perception, or Crawford had changed his appearance threefold or there were no further assaults in the locations of those offences during the interim, is irrelevant.
Turner and Davies were the virtual complainants and their voices could not be ignored.
So on what basis was Crawford charged and why did he spend 18 months remanded on a charge of rape which his alleged victims said he did not commit?
Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin explained it thus: “The team of investigators who were tasked with investigating these assaults are firmly of the view that the evidence strongly supports the decision to arrest and charge Mr Crawford.”
It has been reported and confirmed that there is no DNA or forensic evidence against Crawford. It has been reported and confirmed that the only “witnesses” to these two crimes were the victims themselves.
So, what is the evidence of which Commissioner Dottin speaks?
We are told that there was a confessionary statement. And here rests the crucial component of this scenario.
If the statement was recorded within the dictates of the law, then the police would be in their rights to believe they had a solid case. Confessionary evidence, as the sole evidence available, is not foreign to this or any other worldwide jurisdiction, and is credible evidence in any court of law.
But in view of the victims’ statements, Crawford’s post-indictment assertions, and the dismissal of the case against him, the average citizen might view future confessionary statements with suspicion.
And since in judicial matters we are often judged by our peers, the force needs to allay the concerns of John Public on this matter.
Attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim stopped just short of calling for the commissioner’s resignation. We will not go as far as Crawford’s legal counsel, but we hope the implications which this episode has for the force and the administration of law and order are not lost on the goodly gentleman.