Criminal charges may – or may not – be pending against a prison officer over the theft of thousands of dollars from the Barbados Prison Officers’ Association (BPOA), Barbados TODAY has learned.
While detectives, probing the disappearance of funds from the BPOA’s bank account, found that one of the association members was “criminally culpable”, newly-promoted crime chief Eucklyn Thompson has advised the association’s leadership that the facts suggest it may unwise to press charges.
But the association may bring a private prosecution against the alleged offending prison officer.
The findings of the probe are contained in a September 4 letter from Thompson, Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Crime to the BPOA’s president, Trevor Browne.
According to the correspondence – a copy of which has been obtained by Barbados TODAY – the current leadership of the BPOA recently called in the police to investigate the matter which occurred some four years ago under a different executive committee.
But Thompson’s letter reveals a twist to any possible charges being laid against the prison officer even though the evidence fingered him.
The turn of events, the letter noted, has its genesis in the initial discovery that the account had been the subject of fraud.
“Upon the BPOA making this discovery, Mr [name omitted for legal reasons] was allowed by the then committee to repay the funds he took from the relevant account. These repayments were done in installments. Upon taking over the status of the account in 2014, incoming president Mr Clarke was informed that [accused prison officer] still owed a balance of ($2,800),” the crime chief wrote.
He pointed out that subsequently in September 2014, the Clarke-led executive committee agreed at one of its meetings to “write off” all outstanding debts including the money owed by the accused officer.
“However, former vice president Mr Valiance Holder, in his interview [with the police] reported that to his knowledge Mr [accused officer] had settled the matter with the BPOA,” the investigators found.
It was at this point in his letter to the current association head that Thompson advised the BPOA president that it would not be shrewd, from an investigative perspective, for the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) to pursue charges against [the officer] in such circumstances considering that a verbal contract or commitment had been agreed upon between the BPOA and the member for him to repay the money.
“If this intervention was not made, the course of the investigation would have gone in a different direction as the evidence clearly showed that Mr [the accused] was criminally culpable for his misdeeds. Thus, as it stands, there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against Mr [accused] as it relates to our investigation into your [association president’s] report,” the Assistant Commissioner of Police concluded.
But there is yet another twist in the tale.
The Trevor Browne-led association has no intention of letting the matter die there.
Consultant to the association Senator Caswell Franklyn told Barbados TODAY this afternoon the organization has hired a lawyer to bring a private prosecution case against the prison officer.
In that same letter, it was discovered that the association president had also requested an investigation be carried out into the conduct of a senior police officer.
But in response, Thompson advised him to go to the Office of Professional Responsibility – a department in the police force dealing with such issues – and make an official complaint in writing with a view to having the issue investigated.
While Browne has already laid an official claim with the Police Complaints Authority, the executive of the association is expected to meet shortly with its legal advisor to agree on the next step.
When contacted Thompson stood firmly behind the contents of the letter, while seeking at the same time to defend the reputation of the force in dealing with “bad cops”.
“We have a complaints section in our force where if anybody is aggrieved about something that would have happened to them at the hands of a police officer, that person can go to the Office of Professional Responsibility and make such a complaint. So that was the direction pointed to. So we don’t seek to cover up any wrongdoing by any police officer. We have a proven mechanism to deal with things of that nature,” the crime chief told Barbados TODAY.
Neither Superintendent of Prisons Lt Col John Nurse nor his deputy Cedric Moore could be reached for comment.