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Justice Frank Seepersad

Defaming in Social Media is popular these days – Consequences come in varying forms

Justice Frank Seepersad

The article published last week, “High Court judge rules on Facebook posting” which showed one Facebook poster, ordered to pay to her victims, damages and costs, we had prefaced it by saying, “There are many fronts of interest for very diverse sections of our community, that this article should receive special attention.”

There has been some ‘feedback’ where some concerned persons expressed support for the view that many here in Montserrat and elsewhere have been getting away with similar acts. They wanted to know more about the matter.

Nearly all the mediums, print and online, carried the story. In another article, the judge was quoted saying: “There is nothing wrong with expressing your views, by all means, go ahead [but] do not defame the reputation of someone else. Do not drag their name through the mud. Be careful what you post, they have consequences.”

Following Justice Frank Seepersad conviction, saying, Your social media posts can have consequences in court, in a programe called, The Morning Brew today, the suing couple’s attorney issued a caution to others using the kind word, ‘share’ in Facebook. “A word of caution is also extended to those who knowingly republish or “share” posts containing defamatory content. There must be some measure of restraint, if only to reconsider the accuracy or plausibility of truth in a post before its dissemination which is especially true of sensational and outrageous posts which can possibly cause irreparable harm,” they said.

This should be given very serious thought. You see, you can’t change the printed word. You may get away with the attempt of trying to change the spoken word.

In that article it offered a brief on “What is defamation?” 

The Libel and Defamation Act was first established in January 1846.

There are two parts of defamation namely libel (things in a permanent form that are written e.g newspapers, books, paintings, drawings) or slander (things that are said).

Defamation is usually an allegation or accusation that harms the reputation or honour of the subject of the communication, generally by identifying a character trait or course of action that exposes the subject to hatred, contempt or ridicule.

A Magistrate or High Court Judge can therefore award damages if the defendant is found guilty of defamation of character.

It is on Facebook and probably through other social media that Montserrat suffered and is suffering from certain ‘potentially’ defamatory publishing which undoubtedly among more serious problems, caused the presence of a new governor in Montserrat. As a result there may be all types of litigation that might take place, however long that will be.

Legislation regarding defamation (the Libel and Defamation Act) was established long before the era of the internet. As such, this ruling will now govern the use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other communication applications including WhatsApp and Viber.

Some folks may feel secure and private, but note, as the judge indicated: “…while a person’s social media account is private, the posts occupy a public space and the content will be subject to public opinion and scrutiny.

Another writer Derek Achong noted the advice to exercise extreme caution when making posts, as citizens who fall victim to reckless and malicious statements now have an avenue of recourse.

The observations noted that social media users would be held to the same standards as traditional media practitioners. Just as the judge put it: “Social media ought not to be viewed as an unregulated media forum and anyone who elects to express views or opinions on such a forum stands in the shoes of a journalist and must be subjected to the standards of responsible journalism which govern traditional media,” he said.

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Sheree Rodney

Brandt questions the appointment of new Attorney General

Veteran Attorney at Law David S. Brandt continues to argue for a position he promoted back in 2000 while he was Chief Minister of Montserrat.

The last time we recall he successfully argued for that to be exercised was at the retirement of Police Commissioner John Douglas. His position was that top positions in particular should be offered first to a Montserratian, then someone from the region before going elsewhere.

The policy was very much endorsed in 2012 when several positions became available when it was said that all jobs should be advertised with Montserratians having first option.  That became ‘law’ when persons were being hired to work at the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC)

This week Mr. Brandt is calling on the powers that be to come out and announce the name of the new Attorney General for Montserrat. This so even after he said a non-national has been confirmed in the post.

It would be of interest to him as he is a lawyer still practising in Montserrat, he says it is for far too long the naming of the new Attorney General has been shrouded in secrecy. 

He spoke to ZJB News that it has been brought to his attention that despite the fact that Mrs. Sheree Jemmotte-Rodney has been acting in that position for over a years. That as a matter of fact should have been for several years.

 Mr. Brandt says that for a whole year Mrs. Jemmotte-Rodney has been advising the Government on civil matters and that it would be unfair to give the position to someone else.

“I would like to say it is not this government’s fault, because two of the three persons who sat on the interview board were foreigners, one from DFID and a foreigner working with the government,” he said. “Mrs. Jemmotte-Rodney was here during the volcanic crisis. She suffered from ash. She had to deal with her young children, sometimes had to move. And here the opportunity comes to be confirmed as Attorney General.”

He points that there’s a rule in the civil service that you must not act for more than three months. “So if you act for more than three months you have the legitimate expectation that you would be appointed,” as he then notes, “when we confirm a foreigner whatever he or she learns she goes with it. Every Attorney General that has acted here in recent times have become judges of the High Court, if we do not promote our people then those who are in certain positions would have to wonder would I reach the top.”

It can be observed that the last Montserratian only a few years ago who was Attorney General in Montserrat on more than one occasion, Miss Esco Henry is now a judge in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

TMR learnt that one of the criteria that was set for the post, seen as a definite point to keep her out, was that the candidate must have worked outside of Montserrat. This is seen as very ridiculous and invoked comments that there is something terribly wrong with the recruitment process in Montserrat. The argument being that the person who we understand (unofficially) is from Trinidad who has never worked in Montserrat (or could it be one of the persons brought in by FCO to work on some matters out of the AG’s office). In addition to the complexity of the matter, we learnt also that on more than one occasion as in this instance at least one of the applicants is working outside of Montserrat in an Overseas Territory, and that person was also overlooked.  Where is the sense the fairness?

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US court asked to subpoena British Overseas Territories security advisor

US court asked to subpoena British Overseas Territories security advisor

Most or all of the stories and articles featured in this newspaper from time to time are for reason that there are matters of important relevance and benefit to Montserrat. The following Caribbean News article bears much relevance and similarities to matters that go on with regards to Montserrat and some circumstances that have thwarted our progress on an individual level and a government level.

If persons and government were to have the guts and the people of Montserrat at heart we would in the not too distant future see situations develop as has been the case in TCI and now Cayman Islands, and elsewhere.

Covington visits Montserrat regularly in his capacity as described in the article and Tony Bates heads the Governor’s office here in Montserrat.

Pic – (L-R) British Overseas Territories security adviser Larry Covington with Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) Commissioner David Baines and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official Tony Bates in May 2012

By Caribbean News Now contributor

MIAMI, USA — Attorneys acting for former Cayman Islands premier, McKeeva Bush, have filed an application in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida seeking an order granting Bush leave to issue and serve a subpoena on Lawrence ‘Larry’ Covington, Britain’s overseas territories security adviser, who was and is a resident of Miami-Dade County, Florida.

The application has been made pursuant to 28 USC § 1782 for judicial assistance in obtaining evidence located in the state of Florida for use in a foreign and international proceeding, namely, a currently pending case before the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands filed by Bush against Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) Commissioner David Baines, former Cayman Islands governor, Duncan Taylor, and the attorney general of the Cayman Islands, Sam Bulgin, for conspiracy and malicious prosecution.

According to the US court filing, the gist of the Cayman action is that Baines, Taylor and Bulgin conspired for Bush to be arrested in the Cayman Islands and charged with the “crime” of using his government issued credit card for personal expenditures. Bush asserts that his prosecution was malicious and/or brought for an improper purpose, which was to remove him from his office as premier of the Cayman Islands in 2012 and render him unable to retain his office in the 2013 elections.

Evidence submitted to courts in the Cayman Islands and the United States for the purpose of obtaining search orders and evidence under mutual legal assistance provisions falsely stated that Bush had breached Cayman Islands government policy by using his credit card for personal reasons. Bush was ultimately exonerated by a jury following a full trial on all of the charges and filed suit to recover damages from the alleged conspirators.

Evidence introduced in the Cayman action is said to demonstrate that Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was involved in bringing the false criminal charges against Bush.

Specifically, an email dated February 5, 2012, from then governor Taylor to Tony Bates, who was the head of the Caribbean and Bermuda Section in the Overseas Territories Directorate at the FCO in London, stated that “the Commissioner and his team are doing everything they can to expedite matters and are well aware of the potential difficulties if we are unable to get to the point of charging McKeeva ahead of the elections.”

Another email from Taylor to Bates at the FCO reported that Taylor had “tipped off a [media source]” as to where Bush’s charge sheet could be found and inspected so that the media source could “write a piece” about Bush’s arrest.

In yet another email from Taylor to Bates, Taylor suggested that he will be opening a bottle of champagne in celebration after Bush’s arrest, as he remarks in his email, “Not opening any quiet bubbly until after it [charges against Bush] has been confirmed!”

Bush claims that these emails demonstrate that the FCO was heavily involved in the manufactured charges against him.

Covington was the law enforcement adviser for Britain’s Caribbean Overseas
Territories and his role was to provide guidance and advice to the governor and commissioner of police.

The nature of Covington’s role in law enforcement in the UK overseas territories is said to be illustrated by a judgment issued by the Cayman Islands Grand Court, which records the then-governor of the Cayman Islands accepting a recommendation from Covington, described as the law enforcement adviser in the FCO, to investigate allegedly criminal conduct in the Cayman Islands under the code name “Operation Tempura”.

Operation Tempura was an investigation conducted by senior Scotland Yard detectives into alleged corruption and other criminal conduct in the Cayman Islands in 2008, and itself turned into an unmitigated disaster, resulting in a series allegations, counter allegations and recriminations.

The lead investigator in the Operation Tempura probe, Martin Bridger, has steadfastly maintained that the initial investigation by the local police, which involved an illegal entry into the offices of a local newspaper, was discussed with and approved by former governor Stuart Jack, Covington and Bulgin, all of whom issued unconvincing denials.

According to Bush’s attorneys, given this background and the high profile and controversial nature of the investigation and failed prosecution of Bush, there can be no doubt that Covington personally played a central role. There can also be no doubt that he would have created and would have received documentary material in relation to both the investigation and the failed prosecution of Bush.

Specifically, given Covington’s title and role played in the investigation and prosecution of Bush, it is simply not possible that no documents have been sent to, or generated by, Covington during the entire process.

“Although one would have hoped Mr Covington might volunteer his records to assist the defendants to comply with their discovery obligations in the Cayman Islands, Mr Covington has not done so and the other defendants in the Cayman action assert that these documents are not within their possession,” Bush’s attorneys state.

Thus, they assert that Covington is a key person in these proceedings and Bush has therefore applied to the US court to obtain information relevant to the Cayman action, including:

  1. copies of all emails sent or received by Covington (including for the avoidance of doubt archived or deleted emails or other electronic documents) between January
    1, 2009, and December 31, 2014, relating to the intended and actual investigation and subsequent prosecution and trial of Bush, and;
  2. any and all notes, reports, memoranda or other documents of any kind and in any format created between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2014, that relate to the intended and actual investigation and subsequent prosecution and trial of Bush, his removal from office as premier of the Cayman Islands and/or the 2013 elections.

Bush also seeks that Covington attend a deposition to answer questions as to the role he played in the prosecution of Bush and to explain the documents that are produced.

The relevant court filings are publicly accessible at the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida under case number 1:18-mc-20228-JEM In Re: Application of William McKeeva Bush OBE.

 

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High Court judge rules on Facebook posting

High Court judge rules on Facebook posting

There are many fronts of interest for very diverse sections of our community, that this article should receive special attention. This presents not only as this story represents but the understanding of ‘social media’ on a whole. Look out for more on the issues.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 5, CMC – A High Court judge Monday described as “reckless and scandalous” the postings of a woman on the social media, Facebook, after ruling that unsubstantiated libelous statements had caused a family to suffer “shame and embarrassment”.

Justice Frank Seepersad, who said that the woman, Jenelle Burke, would have to pay to her victims damages and costs to be assessed by a Master in Chambers at a later date, said that the defendant did not dispute that the posts were on her Facebook account but she ran the “Shaggy defence” by saying “it wasn’t me”.

In her posts, which the court heard had may have been seen by thousands of people, Burke claimed that the family in question was engaged in incestuous activities and that the father of the family was a rapist who would engage in sexual relations with his stepson and daughter who is a minor.

The telephone numbers belonging to the family members as well as their photographs were attached to the posts. One of the posts also stated that the minor, who was seven years old at the time, was involved in prostitution at her school.

In court, the unidentified family members denied that the accusations and the High Court heard that the Facebook posts had resulted in officers of the Child Protection Unit visiting the family on one occasion to carry out investigations into the allegations.

The family members who said they were once friends with the woman, said despite making reports to the police, the insults continued and in February last year became aware of the Facebook posts on Burke’s page.

In her defence statement, Burke admitted that the messages were posted on her wall but denied she was the one who did so. She contended it may have been placed there by someone else who may have had access to her account. She said as soon as was saw the posts on her page, she deleted them.

But in delivering his ruling, Justice Seepersad warned that the damage which social media postings can have is significant, as the disseminated material creates a perpetual imprint in cyberspace and “there is no deletion or rectification which can be effected with respect to information uploaded to the World Wide Web, quite unlike a print copy of a book or newspaper, the copies of which could be destroyed”.

He said the reach and permanency of social media is such that extreme caution has to be exercised by its users.

“The law needs to be pellucid, so that all concerned must understand that social media use has to be engaged in a responsible way. Anonymity cannot obviate the need to be respectful of people’s rights and users cannot recklessly impugn a person’s character or reputation.

“Words in any form or on any forum, matter and must be used carefully and not impulsively.  Within the public purview there is a misguided perception that the interaction over social media with flagged friends whether on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber, is private.

“This notion has to be dispelled. Such communication once uploaded becomes public and the said communication enjoys no cover of privacy protection. The advent and continued use of social media now results in a circumstance where the rules, regulations, rights, and responsibilities which govern traditional media must be applied.

“Social media ought not to be viewed as an unregulated media forum and anyone who elects to express views or opinions on such a forum stands in the shoes of a journalist and must be subjected to the standards of responsible journalism which govern traditional media,” the judge said.

He described Burke’s Facebooks posts as reckless and scandalous.

“It is difficult to fathom how any right-thinking member of society would contemplate to publish words such as those posted on the defendant’s Facebook account.  Sadly however, far too often, social media is used as a forum to engage in this type of irresponsible and cruel discourse.

“This state of affairs cannot continue unabated and the Court therefore has elected to mould and apply the common law in a manner which gives some degree of protection to citizens. There is entrenched in local parlance the phrase, “You will pay for your mouth”.”

Justice Seepersad said given the technological revolution which now characterises modern life, ”this traditional phrase has to be subject to an update and all social media account holders need to understand that they may now have to “Pay for their posts”, if it is established that their posts are defamatory”.

He said in this case, the defendant did not dispute that the posts were on her Facebook account, noting that she had indicated that the account was set up in 2010 by “named parties who all had access to same.

“She said that she did not publish the posts but removed same when they were brought to her attention.  Social media accounts must be jealously guarded, just like a bank account and access to same should be restricted, as it is a forum where views expressed will normally be attributed to the owner of the account. “One must be mindful that although the account is private, the posts emanating from the account occupy a public space and the content of these posts will be subject to public opinion and scrutiny as will the persons to whom the posts refer. Inevitably, if what the posts contain are malicious falsehoods, then those falsehoods can translate to real-world damage to someone’s reputation.

“A word of caution is also extended to those who knowingly republish or “share” posts containing defamatory content. There must be some measure of restraint, if only to reconsider the accuracy or plausibility of truth in a post before its dissemination which is especially true of sensational and outrageous posts which can possibly cause irreparable harm,” the judge added.

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Browne at news conference

Opposition legislator files defamation lawsuit against PM

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jan 26, CMC – An opposition has filed a defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Gaston Browne for allegedly making “outrageous’ statements against him in Parliament recently.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday and Browne received the documents on Friday media reports here said.

Browne at news conference
Prime Minister Gaston Browne

Daniel, a member of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) through his lawyer, Charlesworth Taber, had claimed that Browne had made the statement during a crosstalk in the Parliament Building on January 2, after the Speaker of the House, Sir Gerald Watt, had suspended the sitting due to a disruption in electricity.

They said that the allegations reportedly made by Prime Minister Browne were therefore not under the protection of parliamentary immunity, since the Speaker had already suspended the session.

Daniel had given Prime Minister Browne a two week deadline to apologise indicating that failure to do so would result in the lawsuit for defamation.

The January 10 letter to Prime Minister Browne also made reference to the comments he allegedly made on January 6, while speaking on a radio station, which he owns.

Daniel said he had been further injured by statements made by callers and is asking the court for aggravated damages.

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

St. Vincent considers suing Trinidad over currency issue

 
The following is between two (neighbouring) CARICOM nations. How can this come about, TMR asks?

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Jan 16, CMC – The ongoing currency issue in which Vincentian traders in agricultural produce are unable to convert their earnings to Eastern Caribbean dollars after plying their trade in Trinidad and Tobago could end up before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, told a press conference on Monday that while his government has implemented short-term measures of “a sensible, practical nature” to deal with the matter in Kingstown, a long-term solution is needed.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves

As a result of the ongoing situation, some traders have large stockpiles of Trinidad and Tobago currency in Port of Spain and farmers in St Vincent are reluctant to sell their produce to these traders because of the delay in getting paid.

As result, Kingstown has set up a facility at the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that allows the conversion of Trinidad and Tobago dollars to Eastern Caribbean dollars .

However, Port of Spain says it is constrained by a shortage of foreign exchange in its financial sector.

On Monday, for the second time this month, reporters asked Gonsalves about the situation, which he said he would raise at the upcoming intersessional meeting of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders in Haiti next month.

“And I will raise it and I will make certain suggestions about certain things which we may have to do beyond what we have been trying,” the prime minister said, adding that he knows that the governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Timothy Antoine, has been trying with the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago to resolve the situation.

“And we’re not making the progress which we should be making,” he said, adding that the issue is of great importance and that is why he has accorded it that level of importance “and to see if we can have a long-term solution, which is fair”.

Regarding the stockpiles of Trinidad and Tobago dollars that Gonsalves said Vincentian traders have in Port or Spain, he said : “What you want them to do? To buy Trinidadian goods to bring them here to sell? This is what I say to [Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Keith] Rowley. It’s wrong. It’s unfair. And I haven’t checked the lawyers on it, but I suspect that it is a matter which the CCJ may well have to pronounce on.”

“I’m not resting with it. I can’t buy your oil, your products from Petrotrin and I can’t buy your Busta, your Bermudez Biscuit, I can’t buy all of those things, you have a trade surplus with me, with St. Vincent and the Grenadines, annually of about $100 million and, listen, when you do it for all of the currency union, because properly speaking, in monetary terms, in economic terms, we should use the number for the whole of the currency union, because we have one currency. So, the matter is even worse when you look at it from the standpoint of the currency union. It’s unacceptable.”

Gonsalves, who is also a lawyer, said Port of Spain cannot simply say that things are difficult and it doesn’t have the foreign exchange.

“I understand that you have a problem but put aside some of this extra money that you have and pay me.”

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Be careful how you complain the justice system!

Be careful how you complain the justice system!

It can never enough, certainly not currently, to have the conversation relating to sexual, child and women abuse. But because of how Miss Shirley Osborne an organiser of women’s affairs, who also functions as a dominant person as Speaker of the Montserrat Legislature has recently and prior address issues surrounding issues as above, we think it important to touch on her posture on the issues.

December 23, 2017

Miss Osborne has come out and is critical of the ‘justice system’, unfortunately using recent matters that appeared before the High Court during the last criminal assizes. Her take on the matter: “…the terrifying thing for me is that the court, the judicial system which is what you look to when all else fails, or we should look to when all else fails, by some accounts and in some people’s informed opinion has failed this time… We’re going to talk about this last high court session,” speaking in the end as to planned meetings and perhaps consultations going forward.

She stressed the point further. “There’s too many questions too much disappointment too much anger too much failure there.”

In fairness to her she had preceded those words with an admission, which we believe is exactly what needs to be fixed, these issues having gone through many interventions. “Clearly, we’re not doing nearly enough to protect women not just adult women but young women and our more vulnerable women also and our more vulnerable girls,” she said.

Since 2010 and earlier these matters surrounding women, girls and children; sexual abuses, were brought out into the public. HMG joining almost the rest of the world poured monies into the region to address the issues. Montserrat has not been left out, and it is one of the areas, under the heading of ‘Child Safeguarding’

She refers to a domestic violence bill before the house which like several other matters surrounding the issues is one of the mistakes being made on the issues.

How familiar is the public with what that domestic violence bill seeks to do for the ‘people’ of Montserrat? The same question can be asked about various pieces of legislation surrounding ‘Child Safeguarding’. Going to the people who will be affected by the outcomes of the legislation to tell them what it is, cannot be called consultation.

That issue, by the way, is a serious issue in Montserrat. Take the discourse at and coming out of the recent ‘consultation’ on the Economic Growth Plan.

The issues that Miss Osborne took up with the court and the ‘justice system’ were clearly not studied. When they do, it is hoped that a double back will be taken if and when they discover that the approach at attempting to show that somehow the system is rigged against the interests of women, is simply because the facts are not truly or even honestly being considered, preventing the kind of preparations needed to create a solid foundation.

Sometimes and often the personal agendas all round are not sincere, taking the matter at hand with the proper focus obviously skewed.

There are issues promoting one thing and then backing away or looking at the issue only because of who is involved and not really the situation at hand, which is supposed to be for the benefit of good. That is a serious issue facing this country, one that must be corrected if good is going to fall over this land. It is the goal that is important, always.

“You can’t remedy what’s already been done, but we could look really intentionally purposely look for ways to ensure as far as that’s possible that we don’t have this occurring again,” Hon. Shirley said.

That she will find has been overlooked time and time again and will continue if serious examination is made into the motives of those seeking to promote what we believe is not ‘women domination’ but rather correcting and if necessary punishing, what has been for far too long a kind of scourge; that fact being an issue in itself. Full support is forthcoming but that can only bring success if ‘proper’ discussions and consultations take place.

With that a blessed Christmas is our wish to everyone, whichever side of love you may be. And if we do not see you again before the new year, may 2018 bring nothing less than joy and more blessings.

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Harold Brady

Disbarred attorney arrested on fraud charge

KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC -The police on Wednesday arrested disbarred attorney Harold Brady on a fraud charge.

The police report that Brady was charged with fraudulent conversion that reportedly involved just over J$4-million  (One Jamaica dollar =US$0.008 cents)related to the sale of a real estate property.

Harold Brady
Harold Brady

According to police reports, the attorney turned himself over to the Fraud Squad on Wednesday afternoon after being questioned by investigators.

He is also scheduled to face further questioning on Thursday regarding another alleged case of fraud.

This surrounds the sale of property owned by Factories Corporation (FCJ) of Jamaica for approximately  $150 million.

The FCJ had complained to the General Legal Council (GLC) that it is still owed approximately  J$110 million from the transaction.

Earlier this year,Brady, who is also a senior member of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), was struck from the list of licensed legal practitioners in Jamaica .

He was disbarred after being found guilty of professional misconduct in relation to allegations that he misappropriated funds belonging to the FCJ.

Brady has denied the allegations.

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Smart phones can be used for recording.

Video, record all police interrogations Barbados News

Kerri Gooding 

Smart phones can be used for recording.

The time for unrecorded police interrogations is up, and the excuse of no money and resources to outfit police with recorders holds no water anymore.

Confessions and statements taken with pen and paper by police in the presence of only police officers as evidence are not enough.

This view comes from defence attorney for Vincent Edwards and Richard Haynes, Andrew Pilgrim Q.C., and the Hon. Justice Adrian Saunders of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) after murder-accused Edwards and Haynes were acquitted of all charges following 10 years in prison, including four years on death row.

Today the ruling to quash their convictions was delivered by the CCJ on the grounds that the verbal statements attributed to the two Barbadians were not signed, nor were they recorded or witnessed by an independent party.

Pilgrim told Loop News:

“This decision should bring an end to police beating, especially beating during the course of interrogation. This is the beginning of a duty to record audio or visual of every single interrogation that takes place. Instead of coming to a court and saying ‘Yeah, he confessed’; and the accused man saying, ‘No, I didn’t!’ This should be the end of that.”

In the CCJ ruling published today, Justice Saunders said that Barbados has been slow in implementing amendments to the Evidence Act and he said the ruling delivered today testifies to the seriousness of this piece of legislation.

He said in the judgement documents associated with the Edwards and Haynes versus The Queen appeal case that:

“A new Evidence Act, modelled on an Australian draft, was passed in Barbados in 1994. Its purpose was to reform the law relating to evidence in proceedings in courts. The Act contained many important features. So far as the Criminal Law was concerned, its underlying scheme sought to counter what is known as ‘verballing’, that is, the attribution of oral confessions by the police to accused persons. One of the Act’s principal aims was to improve the evidential integrity of admissions by suspects and the chief method for achieving this was to sound-record police interviews of them. Having enacted what at the time was modern, progressive legislation, a decision was made to suspend the critical sections of the Act that required sound-recording. The ostensible reason was that Barbados lacked the material resources to equip its police stations with the necessary recording devices.

“Over 20 years later, these sections of the Act remain suspended. The suspension of these provisions severely distorts the effective operation of the Evidence Act and impedes fulfilment of many of its noble goals.”

Lamenting further about this implementation deficit which plagues many quarters in Barbados, Justice Saunders asserted:

“Sound-recording puts an end to false complaints of police misconduct during official questioning of suspects.”

And he said that the police stand to benefit in the long-run. “Public trust and confidence in the Royal Barbados Police Force is therefore promoted with the use of this technology.” 

He added, “Audio or video recording of interviews also eliminates the need for what lawyers refer to as a voir dire, that is, the holding of a mini-trial within a trial in order to determine the voluntariness of a confession. Voir dire hearings are held in the absence of the jury. They can sometimes last for several hours, sometimes days. They retard the progress of the main trial and frustrate jurors who must passively await their outcome. Voir dire hearings contribute immensely to delays and the accumulation of backlog in the criminal justice system.”

Furthermore, Justice Saunders stressed that in Barbados there is no more time for excuses, especially with smartphones equipped to record audio and visuals.

“The State can hardly claim today that it lacks the resources to outfit police stations with recording devices. Indeed, a large percentage of the population now owns and carries around on their person smartphones that routinely audio and video record all manner of events. Other Caribbean states with fewer resources than Barbados require their police officers to sound-record official interviews with suspects. These states are enjoying the benefits that automatically flow from embracing this initiative. Guilty pleas are up. Trials take a shorter time. The failure to render the Evidence Act whole and properly operational does no favours to the criminal justice system in Barbados.”

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Bevil Wooding, executive director of APEX demonstrates one of the programmes

Caribbean courts embrace technology for improved justice

Bevil Wooding, Executive Director of APEX demonstrates one of the programmes

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has created its own agency to provide technology to reduce caseload backlogs throughout the Caribbean.

APEX’s mandate is to deliver technology-based solutions for Caribbean courts, law offices and justice sector bodies. Since its establishment in 2016, the agency has developed a suite of software tools to address some of the most critical needs of the region’s justice sector.

The solutions developed, known as the Curia suite, were designed by Caribbean jurists and technology experts and developed by Caribbean software engineers. Further, the agency’s governance model includes heads of judiciary, public and private bars, attorneys and leading jurists drawn from across the Caribbean.

Bevil Wooding, Executive Director of APEX with CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron

 “At the Caribbean Court of Justice, our mandate goes beyond simply resolving disputes that come before us. We also have a profound obligation to improve the systems of justice delivery throughout the region, for the greater good of citizens, our beneficiaries, across the entire Caribbean,” said Sir Dennis Byron, president of the CCJ.

Byron pointed out that APEX’s technology solutions can replace slow, unreliable, manual processes with faster, more accurate, automated systems. He cited examples of inefficient, error-prone and time-consuming manual case management and note-taking of court proceedings, which could greatly benefit from modern technology.

“In many of our courts, the judge or the magistrate takes a manual record of proceedings. This slows down proceedings to the speed at which the judge is recording. It does not produce a complete or completely accurate record. Judges’ time and energy is taken up by trying to take those notes,” he said.

“There is no precedence for this level of regional collaboration in the development of justice solutions. APEX, while established by the CCJ, is owned and takes its direction from justice sector stakeholders across the Caribbean,” said Bevil Wooding, executive director of APEX.

“What this means in practical terms is that all of APEX’s technologies, programs and services are determined by the considered priorities and needs of our Caribbean community. In the purest sense, APEX is delivering Caribbean solutions to challenges of Caribbean justice delivery.”

Attendees at the APEX conference in the Bahamas

The APEX non-profit agency is offering its tools, and the support to implement it, to courts and law offices across the region.

“Unlike commercial software solutions, APEX’s technology is designed to become a source of revenue for the justice system in the region, rather than constituting a recurring expense,” stated Wooding.

“APEX revenues are being used to directly improve the functioning our courts and to strengthen human resource capacity in the justice system. Importantly, the decision on the investments in capacity development and institutional strengthening will be directed by APEX institutional members. With APEX, the region has, for the first time, a direct say in how, where and when its resources are applied to the development of justice solutions.”

To bring region wide-awareness to its services, APEX recently staged its first stakeholders’ convention in The Bahamas. More than 50 delegates from 15 Caribbean countries gathered at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in The Bahamas, with another 35 joining the forum online. Among the audience were chief justices, attorneys general, judicial officers, directors of public prosecution, legal professionals, court administrators and leaders of bar associations.

It was the first time that such a diverse group of stakeholders of Caribbean justice fraternity gathered for such a meeting. Wooding described it as “a milestone event” for the Caribbean justice community.

Barbados, Belize, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago are among the places where courts and law offices have already adopted technology developed by APEX for electronic case filing, case management and court performance measurement.

 “The dream of having Caribbean courts benefit from Caribbean solutions for the vexing and persistent challenges in the administration and dispensation of justice, is now a reality, said Wooding.

“The next step will be for leaders in the justice sector throughout the region to take full advantage of the technology that is available right now – already tailored to the needs and practices of the region –  to enable Caribbean court and justice sector excellence.”

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