The shared legacy of Chief Justice Simmons and Commissioner of Police Dottin

Missing and incomplete police court files

Submitted by ‘JW’

Sometimes when things go wrong with the court or with the police, it is a money issue for which the blame should fall squarely on the BLP and DLP politicians who starved the courts and police budgets for two decades.

Sometimes though, what goes wrong is not a money issue or an equipment issue or a lack of laws issue.

Sometimes it’s all about poor leadership and unprofessional management.

This is one of those times.

When court and police management don’t set standards and monitor compliance and performance you can expect exactly this to happen: just as it has been happening for years…

Chaos in the courts

If this sounds like chaos to you, you’re getting the picture. For years Chief Justice Simmons was obsessed with building a shiny new court, and he ignored managing the process in the courts. For years Commissioner of Police Dottin was obsessed with arresting criminals and he ignored managing the prosecution procedures – what happens to the criminals after they are arrested.

The end result is what we have today in 2012: a broken system that could be fixed with a little top-down attention in the courts and the police. It would take leadership and management skills to fix this, and not much of anything else.

I hope our new Chief Justice is listening.

Submitted by JW

Editor’s note: We encourage our readers to visit the Nation News website to read the following newspaper story, but we have to reprint the entire story here because the Nation has proven many times that it deletes or modifies stories to suit political agendas.

Please read The Nation story Call for new police procedures

Call for new police procedures

A lack of files with which to prosecute matters has left the newest magistrate on the Bench upset and calling for new procedures by police.

Magistrate Graveney Bannister said there was no reason why matters from 2009 should be without the relevant documents.

Bannister was speaking in the District “A” Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday after being told that there were no files for a number of cases which were scheduled to be tried or started.

The statement about the lack of files is one which the magistrate has been hearing since he assumed duties last year. Bannister has started not only giving a mention date, at which time pre-trial documents are to be handed over to accused or attorneys, but also setting a date for the start of the trial or preliminary enquiry at the same time.

However, yesterday he noted that “somebody was dropping the ball” when he was told that the prosecution had no file for a 2009 matter.

“Why is it that you can’t have a file for this matter?” he asked.

Bannister said part of the problem could be attributed to “one week there is one prosecutor and the next week there is another prosecutor – the left hand is ignorant of what the right hand is doing”.

The magistrate also chastised lawmen for “turning up on the morning of the trial” and handing files to prosecutors, which then caused matters to be adjourned.

“If there is no timely disclosure of files, there will be no trials,” he stressed.

“There might be some matters that are not so complex that the prosecution might be willing to start without a file but these are summary matters. Why is it taking so long, sometimes a year, to get papers?” he asked.

The magistrate then suggested that investigators, who were building files, hand over what statements they have to the prosecution, with a list of what other statements might possibly be added.

That way the file can then make its way through “the channels”.

“This waiting until you get a file should not hold up a case,” he said.

In the past few years, magistrates in the District “A” Magistrates’ Court have been complaining about the lack of files  which caused a number of cases to be adjourned.


Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, Police

15 responses to “The shared legacy of Chief Justice Simmons and Commissioner of Police Dottin

  1. robert ross

    All lawyers at the Criminal Bar experience this problem. It is a scandal and results in prisoners on remand being kept in jail at the tax payers’ expense for many months – people, that is, who have not been convicted of an offence and who are entitled to rely on the presumption of innocence enshrined in our Constitution.
    If the police have not got their act together after, say, a maximum a 6 months what does this insinuate other than that they have no case fit and proper to present to a Court? The magistrate should dismiss the case. OR he should set reasonable bail even where the prosecutor opposes it. And by ‘reasonable bail’ I don’t mean $50,000 in the case of a poor man who hasn’t that kind of money nor a surety to cover for him. This particular magistrate is right to highlight the problem – but he must now follow through and not just skin his teeth. And that means applying the provisions of the Bail Act as he should, and not rely – as he does – on the ‘seriousness’ of the offence criterion which is often pushed by prosecutors to the exclusion of others. Nor should he set his face against applications for ‘reasonable’ bail by setting his face against defence lawyers at the outset – as he does – even, as in one case, where a 16 year old accused has been on remand for more than eight months and comes from a poor family. There is no point in granting bail and then setting the bail at a figure which the accused, or his surety, cannot possibly meet and this in circumstances where the prosecution is still not in a position to proceed. We speak of convicted persons being taught a lesson. The same lesson needs to be learned by magistrates, prosecutors and the police.

  2. BeingVocal

    Robert Ross, I agree with you wholeheartedly. You could not have laid it out better. Barbados justice and legal system is becoming worse and worser everyday.

    What kind of a message these people who call themselves leaders are sending to the youth who are watching and someday hope to be a statistic of the profession.
    These people should be able to take a proud bow and show the youth how. But instead they really need to hold down their head in shame.

  3. Speaking Out

    Robert Ross, I agree with you wholeheartedly. You could not have laid it out better. Barbados justice and legal system is becoming worse and worser everyday.

    What kind of a message these people who call themselves leaders are sending to the youth who are watching and someday hope to be a statistic of the profession.
    These people should be able to take a proud bow and show the youth how. But instead they really need to hold down their head in shame.

  4. robert ross

    I am sure folks will have seen today’s Nation. It seems that Magistrate Bannister is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Imagine: the prosecutor does not oppose bail in respect of an alleged assault on a police officer by a 19yo girl. The Magistrate then asks whether there was any reason why he shouldn’t remand her. The girl says she has a one year old baby. The Magistrate remands her nonetheless.
    If this report is true this man is a total CRETIN, a DISGRACE to the judiciary. Mind you, he’s an ex-policeman and NOW an ANGLICAN PRIEST. I wonder what a preaches from the pulpit. Or is he a total schizoid?

  5. Mark fenty

    We have to be realistic in our expectations of government, because there is no such thing as perfection within the confines of human government. And those who adhere to this notion, are setting themselves up for a rude awaken I’m afraid to say.

  6. Mark fenty

    Robert Ross I see it quite differently, my friend. If the young girl has assaulted the police as alleged, I believe that the Magistrate has all right to act in accordance to what the law requires, and commands. So what if she has a one year old baby, I’m sure she has parents, and extended family that can assist with the needs of her baby, until she gets her day in court. All I’m simply saying this, the Magistrate has a duty to following, the prescribed mandates of the law.

  7. Newbie

    Five years or more for an unfair dismissal case, the system works fine (not)!!

  8. robert ross

    @ Peter

    With respect you are mssing the point. It is not a question of what the “law requires or commands”. Under our Constitution there is a presumption of innocence. It is known as the “golden thread” of the common law. It is a fundamental legal principle. Moreover, under the Bail Act there is a RIGHT to bail unless there are SUBSTANTIAL grounds for believing the accused will not appear to stand (her) trial, or that witnesses will be interfered with, or that the accused will otherwise commit other offences.
    Now in this case the girl pleaded not guilty. The Prosecutor did not object to bail, ie he did not think there was any risk. The girl was unrepresented. The offence was not serious in the legal scale of things and, if there was a perception that there was some risk, conditions might have been attached to the grant of bail. The girl had a one year old child to look after. The refusal of bail in these circumstances simply makes no sense either from a legal perspective or from that of the taxpayer who must ultimately foot the bill. It was unnecessary and utterly punitive in advance of her trial. If alleged rapists can be granted bail why not someone charged with common assault? What more can I say? I thought the point was obvious. Bannister needs to be told that his magistracy is not about what appears to be his ego and that his sense of the vindictive has no place in the criminal justice system.

  9. robert ross

    sorry my comment was

    @ Mark

  10. Mark Fenty

    Ross, are you saying that an assault on a public official isn’t a serious offense? I agree however, that the girl has a right to bail, but there are other facts and factors that have to be taking into consideration by the magistrate. For example things such as the attitude of the one being accused, and contempt of the court. I’ve seems individuals remanded in custody for simpler offenses, but as I said before, it was up the Magistrate discretion with respect to what the law entailed.

  11. Mark Fenty

    Ross, one can also argue that the magistrate was endeavoring to send a message of deterrence, but I’m sure that law allows him the latitude to act within this narrow periphery. I also understand that right to bail is on of our fundamental rights, but I also believe that in order maintain the public peace, the Magistrate has the latitude deny bail in a case such as this. Don’t quote me on this, because I stand correct my friend.

  12. Mark Fenty

    Ross, I think that irrespective of what the law entails, a Magistrate has a moral duty to ensure the public safety. I’m in no way arguing that this case meets such criteria, but it is left up to the Magistrate discretion in my estimation. I however, understand that it is common practice in the Criminal Justice System, to inflate an accuse bail in order to keep one in custody. Now, if a Magistrate determines that an accused is a flight risk, or a danger to the public safety, he can act to deny his or her bail. I hope I’m right in advancing this haft bake legal hypothesis.

  13. Mark Fenty

    Ross, from a legal perspective it make good sense to me, but does it real have to make sense for a magistrate to act on the powers vested in the law? I understand your point clearly, but that still doesn’t change the fact that it is within the magistrate legal scope to remand the young lady in custody.

  14. robert ross

    @ Mark

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve just written…well, just one maybe, ie the idea that whatever the law actually says the magistrate may impose his perception of what is morally right “for the public safety”. I don’t think that in the case I raised, and assuming the alleged facts were true, there was any danger that the young lady was likely to attempt to emasculate persons generally or police officers in particular if bail had been granted. In other words, subjective perceptions of what ‘morality’ dictates, here I suppose the grave moral error of treating police officers no differently from other human beings, like the nebulous concept of ‘public policy’, is a very unruly horse. And, of course, at the bail stage, where an accused has pleaded not guilty, there is no question of ‘deterrence’. That comes on conviction and sentence. There is no “message’ to be sent before that.

  15. Michael Saunders

    Name: Michael Saunders
    Message: I have been investigating this matter for the past two years. I realize that your government has taken a hands off approach to Mr. Tom Houghton but what has raised my intrest is to just why????? In going over the numerous bank transactions that are controlled by (or where controlled by when this was prevalent) I have been able to find numerous amounts of monies that were transferred to your country but no paper trail was evident (or non that I could find), With just over $1,750,000.00 USA suddenly going missing (being withdrawn) with no apperent paper trail haises emediat red flags. It was shortly after that when Mr. Haughton had the investigation stalled and numerous items overlooked. it was also when official decisions relating to this matter suddenly changed and numerous investigations suddenly ceased…… What I would like to find out is just how many people in influencial positions suddenly had inflated bank accounts????? It is a well known fact that Mr. Thorkelson and Mr. Haughton has utilized their inflated bank accounts to make investigations sudenly become a non-issue,,,,,is this the case with what transpired in your company. They did not choice Barbatos as a place where they could do business by chance……they knew that with the proper spreading of graft that they could opperate without any interference from your authorities……But I wonder just how high up did this influence migrate??????? As i stated I do not have a defined paper trail and with the numerous levels of interference in my investigations I can see jsut why this cannot transpire. last month I was informed that I am stepping on the toes of people who I should not look at…….and this warning has come from three different people directly connected to your government…… I just wonder who has their knickers in a knot when I have made inquiries concerning this case?????? M.N.Saunders