69% of Jamaica gun cases ended in failure

(Jamaica Gleaner) More than 69 per cent of the cases dealt with by the Corporate Area Gun Court between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011 ended either in acquittal, dismissal for want of prosecution or lack of evidence, the latest annual report of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has revealed.

The 2010-2011 report was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

It indicates that of the 435 cases dealt with over the period – excluding the month of June 2010 – no evidence was offered in 118 instances.

Another 30 cases were dismissed for want of prosecution, while there were 154 acquittals.

The Crown managed to secure 116 convictions.

“It is the classic manifestation of the scenarios that occur if persons make complaints to the police and they either do not come forward to give their evidence, lose interest, or they allow themselves to succumb to intimidation, and also if the police do not properly investigate the case,” DPP Paula Llewellyn told The Gleaner yesterday.

In addition to the 435 cases that were dealt with in the Corporate Area Gun Court over the period, the DPP’s annual report shows that a further 637 Gun Court matters were called up in rural area courts between April 7, 2010, and April 15, 2011. Only 231 of those rural area cases – which take into account St Thomas, Clarendon, St Mary, St Elizabeth, Manchester, Portland and St Ann – were disposed of, but the report did not indicate how the matters ended.

In Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, where 339 cases were heard, 173 of them were disposed of, 96 of which ended in acquittals.

Llewellyn told The Gleaner yesterday that matters in the Gun Court are a reflection of a high witness-intimidation climate and that very often the persons who are critical to these cases cannot be located. The DPP said prosecutors are often forced to offer no evidence after a case has been called up several times, due to the absence of witnesses.

“You have to balance the availability of witnesses with the absolute right of the accused to a fair trial or trial within a reasonable time,” Llewellyn said.

NOT COLLECTING SCALPS

The DPP also said it was not the aim of prosecutors to rack up convictions.

“The prosecutor is not into scalp collection. That is unethical,” Llewellyn said, adding that their duty is to put all relevant material before the court for consideration.

She also noted that the standard that the prosecutor and the investigator have to achieve in securing a conviction is very high.

“The defence only has to raise a reasonable doubt,” the DPP said.

She also noted that the prosecutors are bound within the four corners of the available evidence.

“The prosecutor does not have the witnesses under his or her arm. The witness may be under the Witness Protection Programme, but if he or she chooses to make himself or herself available, we do not have powers of telepathy. We can only rely on the investigator to find the witness,” Llewellyn said.

 

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