“I first want to assert clearly to the public that we are entirely innocent of all of the charges that have been brought and we have been charged with. I want to say clearly to you all that all of the evidence that they [police] have clearly supports our innocence.”
The proclamation made by drug accused businessman Charles Herbert of his innocence and that of fellow Goddard Enterprises director Chris Rogers immediately after they was released last Friday on bail following four and a half gruelling days in police custody, was as surprising as it was unusual.
Certainly we cannot point to any case in recent Barbadian memory in which an accused has spoken out publicly in this way, albeit in the form of an impromptu press conference, with a view to satisfying public opinion even though his case had yet to be tried in the court of law.
But then again, Mr Herbert and Mr Rogers’ case is anything but usual.
For starters, it is unheard of to have two prominent white businessmen hauled before the court on drug trafficking charges. This is not to say that only black people are involved in this illegal trade here or anywhere else for that matter, but it is certainly not reflected in the DNA of our prison population at Dodds.
The most recent study conducted by the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit has revealed that 98 per cent of those awaiting trial are male (black males no doubt) and two per cent female, with the majority said to be young people between the ages of 20 and 40, many of whom were already known to the court.
The study also shows that a quarter of 900-odd inmates at Dodds prison are incarcerated for guns or ammunition, almost as many as those jailed for murder.
Which begs the question of whose case is most urgently in need of judicial review? Mr Herbert’s or the hundreds who are presently cooped up in jail awaiting trial, but who were not even afforded the luxury of bail?
And what about the mother who is currently facing criminal charges as a result of an accident which claimed the life of her 11-year-old son? Does this not warrant urgent review?
No right thinking person wants anyone’s blood on their hands and certainly all are innocent until proven guilty.
Furthermore, it serves no useful purpose to have an innocent man or woman jailed, or for that matter, tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, but that does not mean burying our heads in the proverbial sand and pretending away that we do not know that a serious crime has been committed or that we do not know for certain who are the accused the police have been holding in custody.
In his eagerness to prove his own innocence, Mr Herbert would have sought to besmirch the professionalism of certain officials, as well as the media – Barbados TODAY no doubt included – over their handling of the fact that he and another director of Goddard Enterprises had been detained for nearly five days for questioning, along with a co-worker, after they were found on the company yacht, the Ecstasy, with 267 pounds of marijuana on board.
We have absolutely no apologies to make for doing our job in circumstances where we too were disappointed to learn that the head of our private sector and the head of what is arguably our biggest Barbadian-owned conglomerate has found himself in such an uncomfortable bind.
But if it is wrong for us to share this information with the public, then it is equally wrong for us to report on the proceedings before the court of any ordinary man or woman caught with a spliff.
Coming out of this latest incident, it is clear that as a society we still have a far way to go in terms of achieving racial harmony or parity.
And we will certainly not get there until we can perish this silly notion of there being one Barbados for the Medes and another for the Persians – or as Prime Minister Mia Mottley loves to say, two Barbadoses – as well as the utter stupidness which has become the subject of a meme over the past week that ‘the law system is like bleach; works perfect for whites but destroys colours’.
In the same way that black Barbadians are called to account for any perceived crimes, white Barbadians must expect the same, otherwise we will forever be caught in a vicious cycle of moral decay and social decadence, while some blatantly refuse to accept the folly of their ways.