Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick lambasted what she called the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s “failings” that led to Thursday’s acquittal of two child abuse suspects in a case that involved allegations of sexual assault against an 11-year-old girl.
“It is totally unacceptable for there to be failings such as these in the investigation of a child sex abuse allegation,” Ms. Kilpatrick said Friday afternoon. “I expect the RCIPS to conduct a thorough and objective investigation … to determine what went wrong. Those found responsible for the failings must be dealt with quickly and appropriately.”
The police service confirmed Friday that three officers from the Family Support Unit who were involved in the 2012 abuse investigation, including two supervisors, “have been transferred from their roles and are currently working in different capacities while the disciplinary reviews are carried out.”
“This action was not taken in response to any external query, but is in accordance with our standard operating procedures and evaluation of the specific circumstances,” the RCIPS statement continued.
As of press time Sunday, no RCIPS officers had been suspended over the botched investigation, according to department officials.
Grand Court Justice Timothy Owen, who delivered a not guilty verdict in the case Thursday morning, called the police investigation into the alleged sexual assault “grossly incompetent.”
The initial complaint was made in 2012, but the case had not come to trial until July 2016.
Presiding in a non-jury trial, Justice Owen said there was “inherent weakness” in the prosecution’s case, even though he did not find the victim – who was 11 when the initial allegation was made – to be untruthful when she alleged her uncle and cousin had abused her. The victim and suspects involved in the case cannot legally be named due to the age of the victim and prohibitions against identifying victims in sex assault cases.
The police officer who recorded the victim’s first account of the abuse lost those notes, the judge said. The lack of those notes at court meant defense lawyers could not properly cross-examine the child at trial, Justice Owen noted. Further, no one else who lived in the house where the abuse was alleged to have taken place had been approached for witness statements by police, the judge said.
An injustice was done to the victim in this case, Justice Owen said. Also, the delay and incompetent police actions had placed the defendants at a disadvantage, he said.
A police internal review into the child sex abuse investigation had begun before the verdict was delivered on Thursday, the RCIPS noted, resulting in the three officers being transferred elsewhere in the department. The RCIPS did not state where the three had been transferred.
A broader audit of all ongoing child abuse investigations by the Family Support Unit will be conducted by RCIPS Superintendent Peter Lansdown. The audit will seek to determine whether the department had “systemic failings” in child abuse cases.
Following questions from the Cayman Compass on Friday, police insisted that Mr. Lansdown has no conflict of interest in regard to the case review.
“As our statement explained, Mr. Lansdown just began his current role in May of this year, and was not employed with the RCIPS prior to that,” an RCIPS statement on Friday noted. “He is not personally implicated in the situation at hand and is well-placed to conduct this internal audit.
“As this is an internal audit he is, of course, still a government employee. As we explained, his findings will be shared with the Governor who will then determine further steps, including any external review.”
Governor Kilpatrick said Friday that she would await the outcome of the police internal review and audit.
“Systems must be put in place to make sure this never happens again,” she said.