More “searching” investigations and prosecutions must be done in the region when it comes to criminal cases, and especially capital cases, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has said.
The CCJ made that position clear in today’s ruling of the appeal of Carlton Junior Hall V The Queen, in which it affirmed his conviction and ordered that he return before Justice Jacqueline Cornelius, the High Court judge who presided over the trial for resentencing.
Barbados’ final court and the region’s highest judicial body stated that such cases required and deserved “thorough investigation and presentation” of all relevant evidence.
Hall, of 2nd Avenue, Chapman Lane, St Michael appealed his conviction and sentence for the August 14, 2011 shooting death of Adrian Wilkinson in Speightstown, St Peter.
The convict, through his attorneys-at-law Andrew Pilgrim Q.C., Kamisha Benjamin and Rashida Edwards, had argued before the CCJ that the identification evidence against him was “so weak and unreliable” that the judge should not have allowed the case to go to the jury and that, having done so, she was mistaken in directing that there were special circumstances to support the identification. He also appealed on three other grounds which were challenged by the Crown represented by acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Anthony Blackman and Crown Counsel Neville Watson.
In a 3-2 majority the CCJ reaffirmed the conviction but Hall now has to receive a fresh sentence which was also the order of the Barbados Court of Appeal.
But the CCJ panel, of Justices Winston Anderson, Jacob Wit, Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Denys Barrow and Peter Jamadar, which heard the appeal, pointed out that the “minimalist nature” of the investigation and prosecution “cannot escape criticism” although it was “not fatal” to the outcome of Hall’s case.
“We would note that barebones investigations and prosecutions appear to have become almost routine, not just in relation to this appeal, but in respect of several criminal cases coming before us from several of the jurisdictions subscribing to the appellate jurisdiction of this Court.
“Without suggesting that investigating officers in any of our police services in the region must magically be transformed into a Colombo or a Hercule Poirot, it does not take much imagination to suggest that there could be far more searching investigations in this and several other cases that have come before us. Criminal cases, especially capital cases, require and deserve fulsome investigation and presentation of the relevant evidence,” the CCJ said.
The jurists argued that as a rule, witnesses are not only competent to testify but are compelled to do so and as such greater effort must be made to acquire more, and more diverse, forensic evidence.
“The acquisition of facilities and expertise to acquire, process and present DNA evidence, and thus reduce reliance on witnesses, is the holy grail to which our jurisdictions must strive,” the court stated.
Further, the CCJ said, it was the responsibility of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) across the region to ensure that the case for the State was as “thorough and persuasive” as is reasonably permitted by the available evidence.
“Effort, diligence and commitment are required to ensure that the public interest in law enforcement is safeguarded and promoted. The exercise of these responsibilities would appear to warrant greater attention from the office of the DPP,” the CCJ added.
The Trinidad-based court also had high commendation for Julian Benn, the sole eye witness in Hall’s case for what it described as his service to the administration of justice. They contended that there must have been scores of persons who witnessed the incident which took place at the end of what should have been a happy social event in Speightstown, St Peter on August 14, 2011.
But when the police responded to the sound of gunfire and arrived on the scene, according to the evidence produced, there were a number of screaming people around.
“Yet, only Mr Benn was concerned enough and/or courageous enough to come forward. His maintenance over a five-year period of his commitment to justice done is praiseworthy.
The CCJ maintained that more such “responsible and brave” citizens are needed if the society is to confront and conquer the menace of crime.
“The administration of justice as practised in these jurisdictions cannot long survive without the active support and participation of civic-minded citizens,” the five-member panel said in their written decision.