Two more child sex abuse cases investigated by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service within the past five years will not be taken to court for “a number of reasons,” including how much time passed since the cases were first reported to officers, police commanders confirmed Friday.
A third case involving “serious and historic child sexual abuse” that also faced significant delays and evidence deficiencies may still go to court, depending on what Crown prosecutors decide, Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said Friday.
“No charges or court proceedings are anticipated in the other two cases for a number of reasons, including the passage of time, giving rise to severe legal and evidential difficulties,” an RCIPS statement on the investigation read.
The findings stem from an independent review by three veteran U.K. police officers of 92 investigations the RCIPS Family Support Unit handled since 2012.
The review was ordered after police discovered a number of problems in the investigation of sexual abuse cases, highlighted by a September 2016 not guilty verdict in the Grand Court against two suspects alleged to have assaulted an underage girl. The initial complaint of abuse was given to police in 2012, but the case didn’t come to court until July 2016.
During court proceedings it was revealed that police had delayed their investigation into the matter for some 18 months and could not fully explain the reasons why that had occurred. Judge Timothy Owen said the police investigation into the matter had been “grossly incompetent.”
Commissioner Byrne said that case represented a “watershed moment” for the RCIPS and led to a complete reevaluation of the police department’s handling of family unit cases. The new department unit, called the MASH Unit, provides a more focused approach and seeks to work more closely with other government and civil society organizations involved in the protection of children.
MASH, which stands for Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, includes eight social workers, a Health Services Authority psychologist and eight police officers tasked with coordinating other public agencies’ responses to allegations of abuse.
Mr. Byrne said Friday that, while major problems were found in three cases RCIPS had investigated, the U.K. review team found officers’ work in the other 89 matters investigated during the period since August 2012 was satisfactory.
Two officers, including one supervisor, who formerly worked in the Family Support Unit were reassigned to other areas of the police force as a result of the review, Commissioner Byrne said. No one was fired over it.
The commissioner said he didn’t believe it would be fair to terminate any officers over what had occurred, because the problems that arose were largely to do with management-level decisions, or the lack thereof.
“You had people working in a very pressured environment,” Mr. Byrne said. “People running from one case to the other…not supported by any process. You had a volume of work that people could not cope with. I’m not certain that someone should be fired.”
Mr. Byrne said the reassigned officers’ careers with the RCIPS “are not over” and that both of them had done good work with the police service in past years.
With the reorganization of the Family Support Unit, Mr. Byrne said an additional follow-up review would be done in November of this year to check RCIPS’s progress.
For now, he said all the RCIPS could do was apologize to the victims of crimes for the delays in cases where they may never receive justice.
“We have not met our obligations in the past, but we’re moving forward very aggressively,” he said.