Governor slams RCIPS for ‘failings’ in child abuse probe

Three Family Support Unit officers transferred

Governor Helen Kilpatrick

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.

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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.

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  1. She is absolutely correct. A full investigation is called for.

    Meanwhile, whatever happened to that vehicle inspector who took a car on a joyride and crashed it? There was going to be an internal investigation there too I remember.
    Was he fired? Or what?

  2. There is a comment on CNS site (16/09/2016 at 11:10 pm… “I used to be a social worker in Cayman.”) which clearly indicates that failings are systemic. I recommend that Peter Lansdown reads all comments here and everywhere else as they sure will give him a broader picture of what is really going on in the Cayman Islands when it comes to sexual abuse of children and domestic violence against women.

    Compass, please keep your focus on this to make sure the investigation won’t drag forever. You may want to compare how investigation is being done in Kansas city, where “Kansas City Police Failed to Properly Investigate Child Sex and Abuse Cases”.

    The RCIPS’ apology and Governor’s lambasting is not enough. The transfer of three officers from the Family Support Unit is not enough. This is a call for real consequences for RCIPS’ failure to enforce laws.

    Please also find out who legally represents this child-victim since she was removed from her mother. Who will be filing a lawsuit(s) (criminal or civil) against the RCIPS to compensate the victim? This needs to be made a landmark case in the Cayman Islands court history, otherwise, sexual abuse of children in this country will remain “culturally accepted”, a “cayman couture” so to speak.
    Sadly, the most frightened and intimidated people live in this country. They won’t tell to protect a child. These 2 men continue living in the community as if nothing had happened. And everybody knows who they and everybody probably act if they had done nothing wrong.

  3. Definitely must support the Governor on her expressions. What has really broken down the police force is its recruitment. We have been recruiting officers who do not have the slightest inkling about what is Law and order, We need to stop recruiting persons because someone in the Force is a close friend, they came from your country or they live on your block. Many are only serving because of the pay-check and really don’t know and don’t care about the real purpose of joining the Police Force. Some are not very intelligent; head strong and use the uniform as a back-up force. As you follow the trail of investigations, and cases that have been lost in court you will realize that major training is needed; not on how to march left right, left right, but on how to deal with the public in a professional knowledgeable way. There should be a high standard set to become a police officer, and unless this is done, we will be for ever having these miss-haps in cases whether they are misdemeanors or felonies.

  4. Yes Madam Governor you should have been outraged with the RCIP long time ago with the incompetence of ex CoP . But I think that the RCIP should not be investigating it’s own self, and someone needs to do something about all the incompetence and corruption.

  5. And don’t forget about the murder of 21-year-old Nichelle Anna-Kay Thomas. RCIPS’s failure to intervene (on 5 separate occasions) resulted in her being murdered. Why did RCIPS get away with it? Will it be investigated now? Will heads roll?
    Anna-Kay Thomas’ case just confirms the systemic and systematic failure of the RCIPS.

  6. In the UK there are numerous cases of successful prosecution of child sexual abuse, decades after the abuse occurred. I am not a lawyer, but as the victim, the family members and the alleged abusers are I believe still here, why can’t the case be started afresh, with new statements being taken.
    The judge rightly criticises the police, but above all, we need to seek justice for the victim, if there is any way this can still be achieved.

  7. No Roger you can’t start over a case by getting new statements. The defense Lawyer would say that the new statement was influenced by past trial . To bring a new trial to court you the new prosecutor would have to look into all old statements , and evidence and police files on the case , to really see and know if a new case can be brought to court.