Videotaping of accused is advised

Justice Priya Levers wants police to videotape their interviews with people accused of breaking the law.

That was her advice during a hearing on evidence in the case against Brandon Leslie Ebanks who was charged with possessing an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

The jury was instructed to return a verdict of not guilty.

Ebanks, 21, had been in custody since his arrest in the early hours of 28 October.

The jury was chosen on Thursday, 29 March. Over the next three days the judge heard legal arguments in the absence of the jury.

Trial began on Tuesday, 3 April. Crown Counsel Kirsti-Ann Gunn said Ebanks was knowingly in possession of the .38 handgun and ammunition in the glove compartment of the car he was driving when police stopped the vehicle and searched it.

Ebanks did not own the car. His girlfriend had driven it when they went to a nightclub on the Friday night and she gave him her keys. She told the court that when she was ready to leave the club early Saturday, the car was gone and so was Ebanks.

The jury also heard from the two police officers who stopped the car. They said Ebanks came out of the car, but there were two passengers who did not come out.

One was sitting in front and one in the back; they were not sitting still, but the officers could not see what they were doing. One officer said the passengers were moving about as if trying to hide or conceal something.

Ebanks was asked why he had not stopped as soon as the officers put on their lights and siren. He said there was some ganja in the centre console of the vehicle.

One officer recovered the ganja and as both continued to search the vehicle, the gun was found in the glove compartment, which was locked.

All three men were arrested on suspicion of possession of an unlicensed firearm and all three were cautioned.

Jurors never heard any details of what had happened after the three men were arrested.

After the jury was released for the day, Defence Attorney Nicholas Dixey submitted there was no case for Ebanks to answer because the Crown had not shown he had knowledge of the gun.

Mrs. Gunn said knowledge could be inferred from Ebanks’ control of the car and key and the locked glove compartment.

Justice Levers gave her ruling on Wednesday morning. She said she would review the evidence in a written ruling later.

But before her decision, she made a few comments that she believed were appropriate in the context of this case.

‘The fundamental plan of justice is transparency, honesty and equality,’ she said. ‘Both the prosecution and the defence must be assessed by the same yardstick and this court owes it to every citizen of this country to ensure that justice is done.

‘When cases based on facts such as these come before the court, transparency and credibility can be, should be and must be established – for example, by video-recording statement of interviews and any police interaction with the accused.

‘I have advocated this for some time, but for some reason it simply is not done. The least that a citizen can expect is this protection, in my view,’ the judge said.

Her decision was that the prosecution’s evidence was such that a jury properly directed could not properly convict on it. She upheld Mr. Dixey’s submission that there was no case for Ebanks to answer.

After the jury returned the directed verdicts, the judge told Ebanks he was free to go, but she wanted to say something to him first.

She said he was a young Caymanian who now had a serious brush with the law. His choice of people to associate with in the future would be very important. He must have had time to reflect on what is right and wrong. She asked that she not see him back in court again.

‘God has given you another chance. Use it. Stick to your family. Stick to your church and stick to the correct friends that you must have,’ she advised.

‘Yes, ma’am,’ Ebanks replied.

Mr. Dixey told the court that Ebanks still faced the ganja charge in Summary Court.

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