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Getting away with murder

Police often boast about their high detection rate in murder cases, but a significant number of those cases fail in court.

According toNassau Guardianrecords, 16 people were acquitted of murder last year, compared to four who were convicted.

Some of those defendants were acquitted of murder on a judge’s instructions, but found culpable of less serious crimes.

And some cases did not go to trial.

One magistrate discharged five murder cases last year after finding there was insufficient evidence for the defendants to stand trial in the Supreme Court.

The same magistrate decided that six murder cases should be tried in the Supreme Court by a judge and jury.

According toGuardianrecords, three defendants charged with murders that occurred last year had their cases dropped.

In two of those cases, prosecutors withdrew the charges and a magistrate ruled there was insufficient evidence for a trial at the end of a preliminary inquiry.

The country recorded 94 murders last year with police charging suspects in 66 of those cases.

The original statistic provided by police officials was 96, but police gave a new figure just yesterday.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham recently commended police for their work, but he noted that the quality of investigations could improve.

While a guest on the show”Jeffrey”on STAR 106.5FM, Ingraham said,”We are fairly satisfied that the police are locating the criminals. We are not totally satisfied with the investigative work prior to the charge-that the work going to court is done in total accordance with what is required to withstand defense counsel.”

Police have often placed the blame for the poor conviction rates on the courts.

Questioned last year about the country’s poor conviction rates, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said,”We do the best job that we can. You must remember now that when a file arrives at the court[it’s out of our hands].”

Director of Public Prosecutions Vinette Graham-Allen, whose mandate is to improve conviction rates, addressed officers at the Central Detective Unit during a briefing earlier this month.

The Guardianunderstands that Graham-Allen told investigators that they needed to improve the quality of their investigations. She noted that police had been charging suspects based on statements made by their co-accused, although this was not admissible evidence in court.

Senior lawyers at the Office of the Attorney General now review case files before murder cases are sent to court.

That duty has been removed from Superintendent Leon Bethell, the commanding officer of the Central Detective Unit.

Bethell is a lawyer; however, he has never practiced in the criminal courts.

According to well-placed sources, the Office of the Attorney General did not support Bethell’s recommendation to file a murder charge in a case where the victim threatened two men with a gun. The men reportedly tackled the man, who was shot during a struggle. The case has been sent to the Coroner’s Court for further investigation.

In addition to weak evidence, police sources allege that cases collapse because witnesses recant statements because of intimidation.

National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest told the press last year that a murder suspect was not afforded due process because the main witness backed away from his initial statement to police.

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