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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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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.

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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.”