Methods of investigating and prosecuting serious crime will be re-examined, Attorney General Sam Bulgin announced at the opening of Grand Court yesterday.
He also spoke of the need for a witness protection programme and public education. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, in his address, also remarked on an aspect of the matter.
Mr. Bulgin began by acknowledging ‘the occasional upsurge in certain violent crimes’ during 2004. He described them as ‘incidents that have not only sent shock waves through our community but also stretched the resources of law enforcement agencies.’
He said commendable efforts had been made to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, he was unable to report that the efforts were ‘as successful as we would have wished.
‘This means, therefore, that as a matter of priority the methods of investigating and prosecuting of some of these matters need to be revisited in order to ensure that the confidence of the public in the capacity of its public servants to investigate and prosecute serious crime continues to be at the highest level,’ Mr. Bulgin continued.
He then announced: ‘To this end, all related agencies have pledged to re-examine their approach in the coming year to determine and identify any weaknesses in the various systems and to discuss strategies to enhance crime fighting abilities.’
As to evidence in a case, Mr. Bulgin mentioned both scientific evidence and witness evidence, but emphasised the latter.
‘There is clearly a need to provide witnesses with any necessary protection and the related need, where possible, to support eye witness evidence with scientific and forensic evidence.
‘Commensurate with this is the desire to further sensitise the public to respond to the call for greater community participation in solving crime. Such participation has to be committed and whole-hearted,’ Mr. Bulgin pointed out.
‘It is no good for persons to be giving statements to the police and shortly thereafter to give another statement totally retracting what was initially said. The causal circumstances for such conduct needs to be examined.’
The Chief Justice, whose address will be reported in detail later, commented that several cases had been adjourned on short notice or abandoned because of the absence of witnesses.
He said judges believe that the witness subpoena system works best when the investigating officer remains responsible throughout a case for getting witnesses to court. The judges looked forward to discussing the matter with the Commissioner of Police or his designate as soon a s possible.