The Henry Greene damage

The ruling of the Chief Justice quashing the advice of the DPP that a rape charge be brought against the Commissioner of Police Mr Henry Greene will not summarily end the damage to the criminal justice system wrought by these proceedings and the feeling among the disempowered – particularly women in this case – that justice for them is unavailable or not easily attainable.

Mr Greene has benefited by unashamedly exploiting every single opening in the criminal justice system to avoid a charge of rape being preferred against him and he has been aided and abetted by the government which failed to take the disciplinary measures it should have employed at least by the time that he admitted that he had had sexual relations with the complainant in this case.

It is the height of irony and beyond belief that Mr Greene as Commissioner presided over a criminal justice process where his policemen and women investigated complaints and upon reviewing the facts before them made decisions on whether to charge. Under these circumstances Mr Greene would most likely have already been charged, as many others have been for the offence of rape even in cases where the complainant had credibility issues. Under these circumstances it was for the court to decide on the merit of the complaint and many such cases have been presented in court and have perished for various reasons.

At the stage that the complainant went public and a detailed statement was taken from her by the police over many hours, an oppressive atmosphere would have been immediately created for the investigators because of the subject of the complaint. Which policeman or policewoman or commander would have had the gumption to march down to Eve Leary and seek a statement from the Commissioner of Police in relation to the complaint against him? Civil servants and others who have held key positions in 20 years of PPP/C governance have refused to respect the time-honoured traditions of excusing themselves from office so that justice could be seen to be done and there could be no imputation of undue and unseemly influence being brought to bear in a matter in which the office holder was the central figure. By the time the complainant went public, Mr Greene was well aware that he had at least abused his high office by having sexual relations with someone who had approached him for help and this should have immediately caused him to resign or step aside. When these deviations from customary practice have occurred the government has signally failed to seek out the high ground and to take the requisite action. It protects its minions and those that it has reached various compacts with.

So Mr Greene didn’t leave office immediately and therefore his shadow loomed large over the investigation that his subordinates were supposed to be undertaking. When he finally stepped aside it was by way of proceeding on leave – totally unacceptable. His political bosses should have long instructed him to stand down. Jamaican investigators were then called in and  duly compiled a report after interviewing various witnesses. Even at this stage it was well within the remit of the police to decide on a charge. They didn’t.
The police then sought recourse to another mechanism which is used when they need to buy time or hope to have the heat taken off them – seek the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Mr Greene is well familiar with this process. There must have been countless occasions when he must have made decisions following the perusal of case files for the matters to be forwarded to the DPP for advice. Mr Greene would also have been well aware that once the files were returned with a definite decision, sometimes after further investigation by the police as was the case in this matter, a charge is more than likely brought.  There may be delays and other administrative matters but once a police file indicated in a certain direction and the DPP concurred then a charge would most likely be pressed.

This was the predicament that faced Mr Greene and this was the point at which the interstices of opportunity were exploited by him and his knowledge of what was transpiring at Eve Leary becomes important. Once the file was returned by the DPP to the Crime Chief there should have been an immediate decision on whether to charge. Undoubtedly Mr Greene would have been aware of what was transpiring and had already mustered an array of lawyers. On the day that the Crime Chief Mr Seelall Persaud first publicly confirmed that the DPP’s advice was to charge with rape, Mr Greene’s team approached the courts and secured an interim order against charging on the basis of the DPP’s advice. In all his years as  Commissioner of Police or in any other position in the force, Mr Greene would not have encountered a case where the advice by the DPP to charge based on a police file was challenged in the high court and the charge thwarted. Yet, he became the first to do so within his tenure.

The jurisdiction of the court to preside over this matter has not been challenged. However its use  when this channel is completely unavailable to others because of their lack of knowledge of what the DPP’s advice would be and the precise moment at which to act creates a deeply troubling lacuna in the criminal justice system. Mr Greene’s actions have also dealt a serious blow to the already battered image of the GPF and reinforced the concerns that the force is subservient to political and other considerations where it relates to figures of influence. John Jones and his five grammes of marijuana is eminently and easily chargeable; the power figure with influential ties is another kettle of fish. That will be the lasting and entrenched legacy that Mr Greene will leave the police force. His poor record has now been further tarnished.

For all intents and purposes it is interesting to note the police still could have charged Mr Greene  even after the court intervened and as a matter of  fact can still do so as long as the DPP’s advice was not cited.

For a government that has shown no inclination so far to digress from the deformed governance of the Jagdeo administration there are two immediate problems.  All of the solemn declarations of the former minister of human services, Ms Manickchand and her successor Ms Webster about the protection of women and those who make complaints about rape and feel oppressed by the system have been reduced to nothingness by the contortions in this case. Women will rightfully look upon the administration as only practising rhetoric particularly in the way Mr Greene was handled while under the cloud of a rape allegation.

Secondly, it would be impossible for Mr Greene to continue in the force. To permit him to resign and go with his benefits would brand this government with the ineffaceable image of allowing unacceptable behaviour and failing to uphold standards.  Article 225 of the Constitution could have been triggered a long time now to discipline Mr Greene and this would allow him to present his case. What will the government do?

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