One of the most disturbing phrases ever heard in a courtroom was uttered this week during a case initially described as involving home invasion, use of force against an occupant and theft of firearms.
As serious as those allegations were, they paled in comparison to the counter-allegation raised by defendants: that they had confessed because they were beaten by police.
The judge heard testimony about what took place after the young men were arrested. She subsequently declared: ‘I make no bones about it. In this case there was police brutality.’
With the so-called confessions thrown out, the jury was directed to return not guilty verdicts because the Crown had no other evidence to offer.
The finding of police brutality raises so many issues that it’s difficult to prioritise them.
From the perspective of the defendants, one might posit that they would have preferred a full trial so they could be vindicated instead of having people speculate about what really happened.
From the perspective of the police, one might question how many officers secretly condone what occurred and how many are sickened by it.
Members of the public are justified in wondering whether this was the first time police resorted to brutality. If not, how often has it happened?
Officers may genuinely believe they have found the guilty party after an offence has been committed. Do they concentrate on painstaking detection to complete their investigation or do they rely on encouraging confession?
The judge who ruled that police brutality made confessions inadmissible also referred to the possibility of recording interviews. In an editorial almost two years ago, the Caymanian Compass supported the use of audio and/or video equipment for police interviews.
We said at the time and say again that such recordings would help protect suspects from what they might perceive as undue pressure. They would also help protect the police from false accusations of misconduct.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Law in the UK has authorised the videotaping of interviews since 1984. Not everything that suits the UK is appropriate for Cayman, but this is one measure that does deserve serious consideration.