When charges of murder are dismissed for want of prosecution, questions will be asked as to what went wrong. The more high profile the accused the more searching will be the queries. Recently policeman Sherwin Smith was freed of the capital charge which was instituted in 2011 after Mr. Justice Brassington Reynolds quite rightly upheld no-case submissions by Smith’s defence counsel after the presentation of unreliable prosecution witness testimony.
Prior to this sorry state of affairs, those more knowledgeable about such matters were of the opinion that Smith would be freed because he was not the shooter; a fact that was allegedly known to investigators and certain officers of the court. The stage was already set to introduce that element of doubt about who the real shooter was, which ensured that the accused walked away a free man with hopefully a free conscience.
These types of occurrences are taking on a life of their own, especially when the accused Harry Rajpat – a community policing group member, walked out of the Wales Magistrate’s Court after being freed of the December 2013 murder of construction worker Godfrey Jhaggroo, due to insufficient evidence.
It appears that not enough effort was taken to ensure that material witnesses attended court to testify, plus the inexcusable lapses by investigators, again raising questions about the diligence exercised by the police in matters where their own are charged. Quite understandably, the victim’s mother, Chunramanie Jhaggroo, felt that her son had suffered a further injustice – another victim of a defective system.
And as if to add insult to injury suffered by the victims of crime, there are several matters which seem destined never to move beyond their current stage (whatever that is) including the sexual abuse of young boys by a caregiver at an orphanage; the shooting of a teen in the mouth by a serving police rank.
One recent matter which should urge an urgent rethink of how cases are prepared is where the magistrate freed a man charged with causing death by dangerous driving when he reversed his truck and killed a pedestrian standing at the side of the road. Clearly the defendant did not exercise due care and attention, and at the very least, was guilty of careless or reckless use of the road. To accept that the man should have heard the engine of the truck and taken evasive action is to ignore the responsibility of that driver to use the road with care.
It should go without saying that victims of crime and survivors of deceased victims of crime – whether through vehicular mishap or one involving the use of a weapon -deserve closure in a manner which respects the sanctity of the life lost, and the human dignity of those left to grieve their loss.
Several issues stand out when a questionable level of effort is the apparent cause for the dismissal of court matters. But chief among them is the quality of supervision which attends investigations, since there is no reassurance that these probes are properly managed, from inception through decision or advice to prosecute. So what obtains is a clear violation of victims’ rights and a bald ignoring of the expectations of those directly and tangentially affected from the victims’ side.
The initiatives of the police are recognized, but these must be sustainable and not cosmetic in intent. The public expects that these interventions, when they are presented, would be accompanied by clearly stated objectives, and not have to wait until something positive happens, only to be told that, that is one expected outcome. It is quite easy to link an occurrence to an initiative with no one the wiser, because in the first place, no one knew what to expect. Probably not even the architects.
Maybe legal luminaries could consider introducing Victim Personal Statements to give victims an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings on how a crime has affected them. Another innovation could be Community Impact Statements which can be used to bring to the awareness of those making decisions about a case, the impact the offence has had on the community. These are doable and can only redound for the benefit of all victims throughout the justice system.
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