by Kareem Smith
One of Barbados’ leading criminologists has painted a grim picture of the criminal justice network in which key agencies are effectively casting blame on each other for many of the deficiencies in the system.
Senior Research Officer in the Criminal Justice and Planning Unit Kim Ramsay on Wednesday revealed that victims of serious crimes continue to find themselves on the losing end of justice at all levels of the process, as she reported on a series of recent interviews with police officers, victims, prosecutors, defense attorneys and others.
Ramsay disclosed that prosecutors and defense attorneys complained of shoddy reporting from police officers leading to breaches in the dispensation of justice.
According to Ramsay, victims and alleged victims meanwhile claimed poor treatment when they approached officers to make complaints.
She added that victims of serious crimes and their families have also cried out about being left in the dark when key developments regarding offenders and alleged perpetrators occur.
These include failing to notify them that their case has gone to trial or the outcome of bail and appeal hearings that may have resulted in an alleged offender walking free.
“Some victims only read about the appeal and reduced sentences through the court pages of the newspapers. I spoke to a father last year whose daughter was murdered and he and his wife had no say in the appeal case.
“The persons appealed their sentence and about ten years were taken off of the original sentence and they only read about it in the newspaper and they were devastated,”
At the level of the courts, she revealed that prosecutors and police officers are often frustrated by perceived lenient sentences being given to perpetrators, while alleged victims and accused persons continue to become disenchanted by the length of their cases.
“Each agency kind of blames other agencies for what we see now in relation to what is currently going on in the criminal justice system and therefore it is not smooth flowing as we would like it to be,” said Ramsay at a virtual webinar hosted by the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit entitled, The Challenges Faced by the Victim and Offender In The Criminal Justice Process.
“I must say though that these issues are not just local, but they are regional and international as well. This is not just unique to Barbados,” she added.
On the other hand, the criminologist noted that lawmen, in many instances continue to face numerous challenges as well that range from cooperation with witnesses to the antiquated system of filing reports by hand.
The criminologist added that the situation has been made even worse with an understaffed force that is approximately 300 officers short of the desired number.
“Right now we are still operating in this colonial way where officers still have this black book and they write out everything. So they have the deadlines to meet clashing with the antiquated nature of the system,” she added.
The criminal justice expert and author however noted that the five high court judges appointed last September have been making inroads in the overwhelming backlog of cases that continues to plague the system.
Ramsay, however, noted that of the 30 cases scheduled to be heard on a daily basis, only four are actually heard.
“We have 26 cases that have continued to be adjourned and that is why we continue to have delays in our system,” said the criminologist.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, Senior Research Officer in the Criminal Justice and Planning Unit Kim Ramsay but everyone that I have spoken to has acknowledged that the system is getting better with the addition of five new judges to the criminal justice system. As you know, we only had two judges on the criminal bench and this has been improved and that has come out as a positive,” she added.