An inter-office memo, dated September 24, 2014 gave police officers the following directive:–
“The practice of consulting the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether to charge a person or persons for murder or any other crime must cease forthwith”.
The memo is from the Head of the National Crimes Investigation Branch, Assistant Commissioner of Police Russell Blackett, and is directed at ‘Formation/Sub-Formation and Regional Commanders”.
That memo was issued six days after Prime Minister Dean Barrow, in a joint press conference with the Police, declared “…You can’t wait to charge until you’ve asked the DPP for the office’s view of the circumstances. When I was growing up or when I was practising law the police used to charge you. If they felt they had enough material they charged you. And I am saying to the police let’s do that.”
The directive from A.C.P. Russell Blackett was not made public. The decision was not conveyed to the Director of Public Prosecutions. She was on long leave when all formation commanders received the new instructions doing away with consultations with the DPP’s office in the investigation of crimes.
But Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal has now spoken out, and has expressed her dismay and disappointment.
In an interview aired on Thursday, Vidal claims that the directive is unfortunate, adding: “I am not certain of the reason that the Police have decided they should no longer seek advice from us. This is a very unfortunate circumstance that is not going to work in favour of justice at all.”
The directive via memo states that formation commanders will be the ones to approve the laying of charges, but makes it clear that – “If in doubt as to whether charges should be laid, the Head National Crimes Investigation Branch or the Support Officer must be consulted.”
Traditionally, after 2008, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has been intricately involved in all aspects of investigations into major crimes, and was, prior to September 24, 2014, consulted before charges were laid.
To enhance the efficiency of that service, the DPP’s Office had assigned Counsels to every precinct and formation country wide.
“It can’t be good for justice that we are going back to pre-2008 when police just did what they wanted to do and then sent a file to us months after the fact, “Vidal declared.
Attorney-General, Wilfred Elrington weighed in on the discussion this week, on the side of the police directive.
He stated that the roles of the Police and the DPP’s Office are completely separate, and the DPP’s office should only become engaged after charges are laid, and only in instances of indictable matters.
THE REPORTER has confirmed that DPP Vidal has pursued her concern with the Minister and CEO of National Security, as well as the Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie and the head of the National Crimes Investigation Branch, A.C.P. Russell Blackett.