AG points to forensics in face of witness intimidation

| 14/06/2012

_DEW2970-2.jpg(CNS): In the face of growing witness intimidation the Cayman Islands’ attorney general has pointed to the need for prosecutors to place a greater emphasis on forensic evidence in the justice system. Samuel Bulgin told a gathering of public prosecutors from around the region that there is a direct correlation between witness protection and the need for jurisdictions to enhance their forensic evidence gathering and analytical capabilities in order to address the challenges presented to law enforcement by the ever more brazen attitudes of criminals. He also warned the legal representatives of the people to guard their independence from political interference.

Speaking at the opening of the first ever Caribbean prosecutors workshop regional DPPs Workshop on Thursday morning which is being hosted by Cayman, Bulgin pointed to the direct threat to justice across the region posed by the flagrant attitudes of criminals for the process.

“Witnesses are being shot, threatened or otherwise intimidated by accused persons and those connected to them,” he said. “This is a growing problem in many of our Caribbean Islands. It follows that more and more persons are becoming reluctant to provide statements and testimony in criminal trials. The net result is that persons charged for violent crimes are often acquitted because of the reluctance of witnesses to testify against them, and the absence of forensic evidence to serve as corroboration.”

He added that the surest way of arresting the worrying trend was for criminal justice system to place less reliance on “eye witnesses” and depend more on forensic evidence.

Speaking about the mounting and diverse challenges faced by prosecutors he pointed not just to the reluctance of witnesses but even victims of crime to come forward and the greater “sophistication, transnational depth and the more brazen attitudes adopted by perpetrators of crimes, based on the ease with which they can arm themselves and equip their nefarious enterprises.”

Bulgin pointed out that prosecutors around the region were also dealing with the challenges with inadequate resources. “…Which, but for your continuing creative ways, could result in a dysfunctional criminal justice system,” the AG added.

He added that the workshopwould help prosecutor find common cause in repelling those forces that, if left unchecked, would compromise regional justice systems as he pointed to the challenges coming from within the jurisdictions.

“For a democracy to thrive to its full potential, governments have to recognise that you need to maintain your full independence,” he said. “The concept of judicial independence can only be preserved if governments demonstrate deference to judicial offices such as the Office of the DPP. Quoting Sir Shridath he said Caribbean courts “at every level, must be manifestly free from political influence and be seen to be sturdy custodians of that freedom.”

Bulgin warned the public layers that they must remain independent in their decision making. “You should make all prosecution decisions in the interests of justice and should be free from all improper influence,” he said. “In doing so, you must strive at all times to be fair, transparent and accountable. That is: where desirable, you should explain your decisions and be prepared to account for the service which you deliver.”

He called on the prosecutors to weather the storm of public criticism with calm, dignity and self-assurance as the role of a prosecutor was indispensable.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In the comments and not yet substantiated, but easily done so….

    "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."

    What happened to the poor lady on Cayman Brac who fingered her accuser before succumbing to wounds sustained by hammer blows to the head and being run over by a car?

    Or was the law amended to allow all previous perpetrators to walk around scott-free?

    Mr. Attorney General, did you say this?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I really have to give thanks for CNS here. Let me quote Samuel Bulgin,

    "He (Samuel Bulgin) 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.”"

    Let me just say this. There have been many instances whereby evidence has been preserved and later on, a conviction has been obtained due to advancements in forensics.

    This lady did not die a long time ago and those of us who lived on Cayman Brac at that time know exactly what happened. The fact that a conviction was never obtained is still a shock to everyone, except to those that move in particular circlesor should I say "lodges".

    Mr. Bulgin, sir, I would really advise that you step aside.

    Mr. Duncan Taylor, representative of the majestic crown of our monarch, Queen Elizabeth II and solemnly appointed guardian of the loyal people of the Cayman Islands, what say you, sir?

  3. The Beaver says:

    Bulgin pointed out that prosecutors around the region were also dealing with the challenges with inadequate resources. “…Which, but for your continuing creative ways, could result in a dysfunctional criminal justice system,” the AG added.

    Ummh, and here I thought that the criminal justice system was already disfunctional – silly me…  The Beaver