Case not about Tempura, judge cautions
A Grand Court jury has found that Deputy Commissioner of Police Rudolph Dixon did not improperly interfere in a matter involving a retired police officer suspected of driving under the influence.
The four women and three men returned unanimous verdicts on Wednesday afternoon: not guilty of misconduct in public office; not guilty of the alternative, doing an act tending and intending to pervert the course of justice.
Defence Attorney Jonathan Rose asked Justice Charles Quin to reserve his position on the issue of costs.
Mr. Dixon, 47, joined the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service shortly after graduating from Cayman Brac High School, when he was 17. He rose through the ranks via the exam system and was appointed Deputy Commissioner in August 2003. He was Acting Commissioner for several months after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
In September 2007, he was interviewed as a witness by Martin Bridger, part of Operation Tempura, an investigation by officers from the UK Metropolitan Police into allegations that confidential information about police operations and other law enforcement matters had been passed to the media. Those allegations were shown to be false, but Governor Stuart Jack said the initial probe had turned up other matters requiring review (Caymanian Compass, 30 March 2008).
Mr. Dixon was placed on required leave in March 2008 and charged in August 2008.
One set of charges related to allegations that Mr. Dixon had interfered in a Cayman Brac matter involving gambling in 2003. Those charges were withdrawn by the Crown (Compass, 20 September).
The remaining charges were the subject of this trial, which began on 28 September.
Justice Quin, in summing up the case for jurors, reminded them this was not a case about Operation Tempura or its cost and he told them to ignore the hype in the media.
He also said that, since witnesses had given evidence about something that happened five years ago, jurors should make some allowance for the passage of time – memories could not be crystal clear. There was some conflict in the evidence, but that did not mean one person was lying and the other telling the truth: it could be a lie or it could be lack of recollection.
The charges in this trial arose from an incident on the night of 7 April, 2004, after retired Deputy Commissioner of Police Rudy Evans was suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. He was arrested, but released without being charged.
The alleged course of Mr. Dixon’s misconduct was falsely informing Inspector Burmon Scott that legal precedent existed, which meant the potential prosecution of Mr. Evans for a criminal offence related to driving under the influence could not succeed; instructing Mr. Scott to release Mr. Evans from lawful custody after his arrest; instructing Mr. Scott not to proceed further with any investigation related to the incident.
In opening the case for the Prosecution last week, Andrew Radcliffe QC said the legal precedent Mr. Dixon cited did involve driving under the influence, but the issue was the breath-testing machine, not the manner of arrest. ‘To justify his interference he quoted an authority that was on a completely different point,’ Mr. Radcliffe asserted.
However, during the trial, a 1991 court file was produced that did show a case against Mervyn Cumber dismissed because there was no evidence to show the arresting officer had formed his own opinion as to whether an offence had occurred. Attorney Waide DaCosta appeared as a defence witness and said police procedure had changed as a result of this case, which was well known by the criminal bar.
The evidence in Mr. Dixon’s trial showed he was at home in bed when he received a call from Mr. Scott, who was on duty at Central Police Station. The question for the jury was what was said during that call, which lasted just over seven minutes.
Mr. Scott said he placed the call because Mr. Evans had the right to a phone call and he wanted to talk to Mr. Dixon. He said he outlined the nature of the offence to Mr. Dixon and then handed the phone to Mr. Evans. He heard Mr. Evans say his truck made a few swerves because he was trying to get his grandchild seated properly and that was probably made the off-duty officer think he had been drinking.
Mr. Dixon told the court he never spoke to Mr. Evans. He said Mr. Scott told him he was uncomfortable with the arrest and asked advice. Mr. Dixon said he then spoke to PC Alvan Boxwell, who said he had been told by off-duty officer Graham Summers to arrest Mr. Evans. Mr. Dixon said after that conversation he spoke to Mr Scott again and cited the Cumber case.
Mr. Scott did not remember a conversation between Mr. Dixon and PC Boxwell.
PC Boxwell said he told Mr. Dixon over the phone that Mr. Evans had been given two opportunities to blow into a roadside breathalyser but had failed and was then arrested. He said the conversation lasted a minute and then he gave the phone back to Mr. Scott.
He did not think that a custody record had been opened relating to Mr. Evans.
But Mr. Scott said he did open a custody record. He filled it out and endorsed it with the instructions given to him by Mr. Dixon to release Mr. Evans.
The jury heard that no custody record was found on paper or in the police computer.
Mr. Dixon said he was not told about the roadside breathalyser test, nor was he told the arresting officer had formed his own opinion. If he had, his advice would have been different. He maintained it was advice sought by Mr. Scott, not an order given to him.
Justice Quin told jurors it was for them to decide whether Mr. Dixon ordered the release or whether he gave advice. If he gave advice, was it in good faith.