Today’s Editorial August 03: Modernising the RCIPS

A quarter of a century after police in the United Kingdom enacted laws to regulate procedures for how police deal with crime suspects, in the form of the PACE Act, we find it incredible that police in Cayman still aren’t tape recording interviews with people accused of committing crimes.

While judges here have been rebuking police for their handwritten notes of police interviews for years, the latest case to shine a light on this antiquated practice was the murder trial of William McLaughlin Martinez.

In the case defence attorney’s cast doubt on some of the evidence taken in 23 hours worth of handwritten interviews with the initial co-defendant, Jason Hinds. Pointing out that the officer and Hinds knew each other from Jamaica, they later accused an officer in the case of helping Hinds ‘concoct’ a story that helped him lay blame on his co-worker, McLaughlin-Martinez.

While no evidence of corruption or collusion between the two was ever laid before the court, the system as it stands leaves it open to defendants to make all sorts of wild claims about police.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kennett has recognized the need for tape-recorded interviews of suspects, but has had to cancel training in tape recorder use and sealing and storing tapes because of the number of serious crimes police have had to deal with this year.

While we are glad that Mr. Kennett is trying to drag the Royal Cayman Islands Police Services into the 21st century with recorded interviews, we find it disconcerting – to say the least – that a number of our police are trusted to use potentially lethal firearms, but they are not trusted to use a tape recorded.

Frankly, we are wondering why police have resisted tape recorded interviews for so long.

As defence attorneys in the McLaughlin-Martinez case so rightly emphasised, taped interviews gives juries an unassailable record of what passes between police and criminal suspects. A taped record not only protects defendants, it protects police officers from the accusations of abuse and corruption that criminals can so easily make when it is their word against an officers.

While tape recording equipment and training officers will cost money in the short term, the end result will further the standard of criminal justice in the Cayman Islands. We hope it happens sooner, rather than later.