AG calls for forensic lab

| 14/01/2010

(CNS): Discussing the many and diverse problems associated with the continuing rising levels of crime in the Cayman Islands, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin said the jurisdiction needs its own facilities to deal with forensic evidence to reduce the reliance on eye witnesses and to improve the quality of police investigations. Speaking at the opening of the 2010 Grand Court, he also confirmed that the Legal Department is currently examining legislation to enable witnesses to testify anonymously and to introduce judge alone trials for some offences.

With crime at the forefront of the community’s mind, the attorney general reiterated his position that Cayman needs its own facility to deal with physical evidence, even if it meant the island goes it alone instead of partnering with another Caribbean overseas territories.

“Those of us who have been around long enough can speak to the recurring problems faced by police investigators, prosecutors and courts in cases where good forensic capabilities would have made a difference,” he said. “In a number of significant cases the Legal Department has been unable to recommend prosecution simply because that vital link that would have been provided by the forensic evidence was missing.”

He recalled a tragic incident in Cayman Brac some years ago when a lady died, allegedly run over but no charges could be proffered because, among other things, there was insufficient evidence to independently verify which vehicle was involved and whether there was human hair or tissue or whether it was animal hair or some other type of fibre on the undercarriage of the vehicles.  

“That determination may have been possible if at the time we had a local laboratory with experts in DNA, tissue analysis, tyre marks, and other such disciplines.”

The AG also noted the problems in recent and ongoing cases, and while there had been improvements with the opening of the DNA facility at the Health Services Authority, Cayman needed a dedicated local facility to include more than just DNA testing  —  one that embraced all disciplines. Bulgin explained it would eliminate the need for collecting, packaging, and storing exhibits for long periods to transport to another country and risk compromising their integrity or raise questions about the chain of custody. With the police commissioner wanting to look at cold cases, the AG observed he would have little success without technical and forensic services.

Bulgin also spoke about the serious problems concerning witnesses. “This is a very small jurisdiction and it is understandable that there will be reluctance on the part of some witnesses to testify for different reasons, including intimidation,” he said adding that juries were also reluctant to convict because of fear. He said government was considering legislation to provide anonymity for witnesses in relation to certain cases where there is likely to be witness intimidation to try some offences by judge alone removing the right of a defendent to opt for a trial by a jury. Bulgin also stated that ways the country could expand the jury pool by including those that are now exempted was also under consideration.

He said, however, there was a need for “people power”; despite the fear and the heinousness nature of the crimes the police needed the help of the community. “Unless someone is willing to come forward and give evidence these crimes may never be solved,” Bulgin stated. “Every one of these people committing these offences goes home to a relative or friend who invariably knows that he has done something unlawful. It is incumbent upon them to report it to the police. To knowingly harbour a person who has committed an offence is legally and morally wrong.”

He also expressed his concern over the worrying trend of young girls acting as co-conspirators with and facilitators of suspected criminals. “It shows that there is a clear need to re-visit the findings of the crime study report and to action its recommendations, in particular in respect of young persons at risk,” the AG said. “I can’t help but observe that the social decay we are experiencing seems in large part to be as a result of the lack of self-esteem in some of our young people.”

Bulgin also spoke about the commissioner’s plans for tighter border control with information pointing to firearms coming into the Islands concealed in cargo. He said customs needed scanning equipment and called for greater vigilance. “In short, more resources need to be concentrated in this area,” he added.

The AG also addressed the role of the local prosecutors and the police to exercise greater diligence consistent with the increasing complexity and heinousness of the offences are being committed.

“We need to do more to assure the public,” he said. “Despite the overwhelming workload, we as prosecutors need to pay greater details to files and to be more diligent in our preparations. Police officers, who I must note are equally overwhelmed, need to pay greater attention to details, pursue more leads; ask the additional follow-up questions during interviews. They need to provide the Legal Department with, and the Department needs to request, every single piece of information even if apparently irrelevant. And finally there needs to be greater synergy between the various police units on the one hand and with Legal on the other hand.”

He said it would be wrong to lower the bar on the standard of evidence but to continue work hard to get it right and not threaten civil liberties. “The nature of our system of justice is that persons are innocent until the evidence is of a standard to establish guilt,” the AG said. “We are going through turbulence but unfortunately we cannot simply fasten our seat belts and sit back, we need to let our collective views be heard and all hands need to help. If Cayman goes down in the turbulence we will all be counted among the casualties.”

Category: Headline News

Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I thought there was a forensics lab at the hospital built in the 1990s in Anthony Eden’s day. There were two staff-what happened to it?

  2. Anonymous says:

    That is the key right there, as Mr. Evans put it.

    "However, the downside is that when you get the crime lab it’s not going to be much use if, as seems to have happened at almost every major incident in recent years, the RCIPS fail to properly secure crime scenes and preserve evidence"

    Any great lab won’t be able to do the full justice for the victim if the RCIPS doesn’t handle the scene properly.  I did see they now have job ads though for a crime scene handler….

  3. Anonymous says:

    If various doctors and hospitals can send blood, etc. to the USA for testing, then there’s no reason why any forensics cannot be sent to the USA. We don’t have the money for a forensic lab.  What we need is real police with common sense, a certain level of education, such at 8 O’levels or equivalent, preferably from high crime area who have at least 5-10 years experience, and most importantly, who actually care about protecting this country.  We also need uncorruptable police and an AG with back bone, ethics and morals.

    • gene hunt says:

      ok, I’m sorry to "Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/15/2010 – 05:58" but I have to say this. I absolutely agree that the majority of police officers here fall into the category you mention – not very bright, not verywell educated, not very experienced and as you say, most importantly, don’t give a poo about the community in which they live, BUT, the main reason for that is that those sort of individuals fit in with the prevailing mantra here ofthe way the police are treated FROM WITHIN. If you shut up and blindly follow ‘orders’ whether morally or legally right or wrong, you survive here. Then you get promoted because you’ve been here a long time, and probably know enough dirt on people to make it to the (almost) top.

      When the type of officer you mention IS hired, they are almost instantly ostracised, and often ultimately run out of the service (think Haines). existing unskilled, uneducated and inexperienced bosses have no other means to deal with intelligent and experienced officers than to invent ways to have them removed, because they are threatened by their skills and honesty. God forbid if you are actually ‘uncorruptable’ in the recent RCIPS, because that is seen as rebelliousness…

      If we get a forensics lab (‘CSI, nearly Miami, I can see it now…), then it HAS TO BE staffed by experts (read expats) with experience and an interest. Not a load of locals who fancy a change from Butterfield/Lime/CUC etc for a year or so… Cayman, you are reaping what you’ve sown, so grow up and admit it, deal with it, and put it right.

  4. Mozzie Fodder says:

    Wow, Cayman has an Attorney General…. And I was thinking he was just a legendary creature from stories told to aspiring Bodden Town MLA’s to frighten them into declaring their business interests and eat their greens……

    • Anonymous says:

      This man is only the AG because McKeeva put him there to do as he says and it still boggles the mind why the PPM didn’t get rid of him when they had the power to do so – they may have been reelected if they had as all of Cayman wants to see the back of this lackie!

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree fully with you (01/14/2010 – 18.26) but I will also say that as long as the UDP is in power this man will be AG.

        All reports by the AUDITOR General, Mr. Duguay, that are handed over to the Police Crime Unit because of suspicions of corruption by the UDP Government seems to hit a road-block when it reaches the Legal Department.

        This is not just my opinion it is fact as you can check out all the reports that have been handed over and see how far they have reached and when they had the "buck-up" and came to a full stop and never heard about again.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well well what a surprise yet another "magic solution" boats cars helicopters Cctv more laws, a standing army of foreign police more more more money more money of yo money Cayman.This is disgraceful when one considers the heaps of money that has been spent. Cut our population now to lessen the issues we are having to face on this island get rid of every single politician in the process. Jail the previous ones for Malfeasance.

  6. Anonymous says:

    We need a new AG. Someone who will walk the walk and not just talk the talk..Go Mr AG.

  7. Dred says:

    Sorry Mr Attorney General when you sat back and watched the Two BT MLA’s break the law I lost all respect for you.

    What’s truly sad is that one AG is under fire for doing his job and the other didn’t do his when asked to and his job seems so protected.

    Why is this?

     

    • Anon says:

      I second your sentiments.  And go further to say that if the AG and the country’s policitian’s have so little regard for the law – what kind of example is this to set for the people?  No wonder this country is becoming so lawless.

      • Anonymous says:

        I lost regard when he advised on the legality of an award of status to himself and others in his office, some of whom had been here for only a couple of years.

    • anonymous says:

      What are they going to do with a forensisc Lab. they are not using the evidences alreaded afforded to them. This AG has not even accoomplised a simple Sex Offender Registry, to List all the Rapists,Child molesters, and perverts running around on our streets and hidden in these homes trying to get a job in our schools !. Now he wants a Forensic Lab? That’s like jumbing from pre-school to Professor ! 

  8. Anonymous says:

     

    cayman need lab    cayman need a good forensic lab, but we also need a good attorney general . the one that soppose to be need to go

    • anonymous says:

      That lab or the key must be going to reside in the UK .if history is correct, when the time comes to include or refer to forensics as proof of crimes committed in the cayman Islands; I am not convinced that we will be getting better results based on the and lack of credible intelligence personnel handling such incriminating DNA.  What about the political influence and power of the  cabinet.  Have you forgotten that they now have the power to consult wit te judiciary and te governor regarding the Cayman Islands RCIP?

      I recommend that te Forensic Lab is placed in the care of former chief

      Inspector Derek Haines, OR  THE UK, send all DNA samples to the UK.

      Have we forgotten the Rooster Experience with the GT member storming and crashing into a Lie Talk Show ? Wen their bad children and their friends of constitutients in the local districts  get arrested and committ crimes they’ll crash into the Forensic Lab making the Same Demands !

      WE WANT TO KNOW WHERE THIS LAB WIL BE LOCATED/ WO’S IN CARGE OF IT AND  HOW WILL THE DNA SAMPLES BE GUARDED or PROTECTED?

       

  9. Anonymous2000 says:

    When will Cayman wake up and stop letting these clowns promise the moon, but never deliver.  We have heard this before Mr. Bulgin, please do you think our minds are that little.

    _______________________

    The Attorney General reported that in March of 2004 the Evidence Law was amended to allow testimony given by a witness to police to be used at the trial, regardless of whether a witness is injured or killed in the time between testimony to police and the trial. This option will also be available for witnesses who have left the Island and a new provision in this new law allows for a witness to testify via video link form abroad.

    Of these measures concerning witnesses, Mr Bulgin said: “These measures are designed to, amongst other things, remove any incentive for wanting to kill, or injure, a witness, before the trial takes place, or to frighten the witness away from the Islands in order to prevent them from testifying.”

    Mr Bulgin mentioned that these measures are critical for in recent times witnesses for upcoming trials have been targeted, as in the case of Franklin Lake who was shot and killed, and in the case last week where a witness was shot and injured. “The government is under an obligation to provide the necessary guarantee to those willing to come forward as witnesses or informers,” Mr Bulgin said.

    Mr Bulgin also spoke of government interest in a Witness Protection Programme. He described the recent promulgation of the amended Penal Code which provides a ‘Two strikes and you are out’ provision which allows for the Grand Court to sentence a repeat violator of a category ‘A’ offence to be sentenced to life imprisonment, and the recent Cabinet initiative providing for funds to establish a DNA lab at the George Town Hospital."

    Source: http://www.caymannetnews.com/2004/09/732/crime.shtml

  10. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately I no longer have any confidence that this latest "I will fix the problem if you give me expensive new toy "X" proposal will yield any more results than all the other expensive "fixes" that have preceeded it.  This is just a stalling tactic used by people with no real plan.

    The problem we face with escalating crime is complex but I for one do not believe that more toys is the answer.  These types of expensive toys take years to properly implement, require large volumes of work to maintain competence, and in the end are only as useful as the fools who are appointed by their cousins to operate them.

    Changing legislation to do away with jury trials in some cases may be a partial solution. Allowing witnesses to testify anonymously and by telelink from other countries if necesary may be part of the solution. 

    Creating a new positive obligation to provide information relating to possible criminal activity backed by severe criminal sanctions may be another part of the solution. Creating anti-gang and anti-racketeering legislation may be part of the solution.

    Doubling or tripling the current penalties for illegally importing or using guns or ammunition is definitely part of the solution. Bringing in tough unrelenting in your face policing of the known criminals is definitely part of the solution. Removing the hotel aspects of Northward is definitely part of the solution. Doing away with parole for violent crime is definitely part of the solution. Increasing payouts to those who provide information relating to serious crime is definitely part of the solution. Hiring competent police officers is definitely part of the solution.

    The main problem however with solving our problem with rising crime is that the politicians who are supposed to be protecting us are lazy or prehaps worse. They would rather be roaming the planet in first class and gambling in foreign casinos than here in Cayman bringing needed legislation through the LA. How many of them are gaining personally due to the rising crime? It is time that this question should be openly asked.

    • Anonymous2000 says:

      Very well put, and completely agree.  

    • John Evans says:

      A lot of good points but the crime lab, which goes back way before I took over as Net News crime reporter in Feb 2007, is a bit more than as new toy.

      The Cayman Islands has to have very basic forensic tests (like GSR, which can be done in seconds with the right equipment) done off-island with delays of up to a month and the risk that samples may be lost or contaminated. In 2010, with a rising crime rate, that makes nonsense out claims that the RCIPS is a modern police force.

      However, the downside is that when you get the crime lab it’s not going to be much use if, as seems to have happened at almost every major incident in recent years, the RCIPS fail to properly secure crime scenes and preserve evidence.