The Police high command today backed a call by the Crown’s chief prosecutor for ‘integrity’ and ‘character’ as she underlined the importance of avoiding any action, which might pervert the course of justice.
Director of Public Prosecutions Donna Babb-Agard, QC, warned law enforcers that their training would all be for naught if they failed to carry out investigations with integrity.
Babb-Agard told officers as the Regional Security System (RSS) began a course in the prosecution of drug offences at the RSS Training Institute on the Barbados Defence Force Base Paragon in Christ Church that the very appearance of impropriety or procedural shortcuts can derail a case when it comes up for trial.
In backing the DPP’s sentiments, the Deputy Commissioner of Police responsible for Administration and Human Relations Oral Williams went even further to issue a warning of his own that went beyond drug cases.
“All I can say is the statements made by the DPP are general in nature and are apt not only to drug cases, but any investigation being done by the Royal Barbados Police Force,” Williams told Barbados TODAY.
“I see no need for comment except one that is supportive of the DPP’s.
“So when the DPP cautioned the police officers about the consequences of their actions and the possibility of police files mysteriously disappearing, she is being assured of agreement from the leadership of the force.”
Babb-Agard told the officers: “My admonition to you this morning is that you give equal importance to the maintaining of integrity in the execution of your duties as investigators and prosecutors.
“How you conduct yourself often times has long-lasting consequences, which may adversely affect the outcome of the cases brought to court.
“Your abilities will serve little purpose if your integrity is compromised.”
Babb-Agard gave several examples of how the State’s case could be compromised at the evidence-gathering stage including where “a police file mysteriously disappears, where you fail to disclose evidence to the defence which may assist in exculpating an accused or a suspect, where you deliberately delete important digital forensic evidence, where you use your authority to intimidate witnesses to prevent them from giving evidence, where you allow people to unduly influence your decision-making, which should be based on the evidence or the lack thereof”.
Babb-Agard outlined the investigatory ingredients necessary to successfully prosecute cases of this nature.
She said: “A successful prosecution has, as its foundation, the submission of a well-prepared police file upon which prosecutors can rely. This cannot be overstated.
“It will assist in deciding what charges can be sustained based on the cumulative effect of witness statements and the background profile done by the investigators, of the suspects.”
She argued that the collection of evidence will support the elements of the crime with which the accused is charged, and this ensures that the Crown is able to meet the burden of proof when the matter goes to trial.
“In other words, avoid any action which amounts to perverting the course of justice. Ability may get you to the top, but character will keep you there,” she stressed.
The DPP recently came into public focus when she determined that charges against a local high-profile defendant should be dropped because of a lack of evidence. But she made no direct reference to this decision in her presentation this morning.