Prosecutors Workshop Opens
Regional Directors of Public Prosecution (DPPs), crime scene managers and police officers are getting trained in a two-day workshop that began at the Marriott Resort on Thursday, 14 June.
The 63 participants represent the British Overseas Territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos and 13 Commonwealth and other regional countries: Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Speakers at the opening ceremony highlighted the increasing need among prosecutors and police personnel to rely more on better forensic and non eye witness evidence for use in court cases. Such reliance is prompted by increasing incidences of no witnesses or reluctant witnesses to serious crime.
Welcoming the participants, Cayman's DPP, Ms Cheryll Richards, QC, noted the new association provided members continuing education opportunities to better perform their jobs. Cayman's hosting of the first such workshop was the outcome of joint collaboration of the Eastern Ontario Regional Forensic Pathology Unit, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the OTD Criminal Justice Office of the British Consulate-General in Miami.
His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Duncan Taylor, CBE, outlined that the challenge of serious crime that Caribbean countries face is compounded by the economy of scale in small nations which limits forensic growth. So he welcomed the association taking a collaborative approach to improving effectiveness in fighting and prosecuting crime.
Cayman's Attorney General, the Hon. Samuel Bulgin, QC, underlined the correlation between witness protection and the need for jurisdictions to enhance their forensic evidence gathering and analytical capabilities. He noted, "Witnesses are being shot, threatened or otherwise intimidated by accused persons and those connected to them. This is a growing problem in many of our Caribbean Islands."
As a result of witnesses reluctant to provide testimony and lack of corroborative forensic evidence, persons accused of serious crime were getting acquitted. So it is imperative for the criminal justice system to rely less on eye witnesses and more on forensic evidence, the Attorney General said.
He challenged the participants to become proactive "advocates for change in legislative, administrative and other matters that will enhance your current justice system." He asked them to however continue protecting civil liberties, including the right to a fair trial.
Urging them to make all prosecution decisions in the interests of justice and free from all improper influence, the Attorney General advised them to strive to be "fair, transparent and accountable".
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Stephen Brougham outlined some of the challenges to providing forensic evidence among many Caribbean nations, including having to ship evidence off to bigger jurisdictions for forensic analysis. Even in relatively simple cases, the evidence might have to be shipped to three to four different laboratories and experts, including in other countries.
In recent cases, gunshot residue and DNA evidence had been thrown out because of cross-contamination, he noted. Therefore it was satisfying that convictions were obtained in two recent murder cases in the Cayman Islands, he added.
Organised as the first initiative of the newly formed Caribbean Association of Prosecutors, the two-day workshop aims to provide insights into forensic science and transnational crimes. Twelve experts from the UK, Canada and the Eastern Caribbean are providing the training to take forward the workshop's theme: Enhancing the Effectiveness of Prosecutors in a Challenging Environment.
For further information contact: Bina Mani