By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
EXPRESSING concerns over public discourse on police-involved killings, a former Court of Appeal president yesterday urged officials to “speed up” coroner’s inquests into such cases to foster “the needed peace”.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Dame Joan Sawyer expressed a level of concern over the growing length of time between police-involved shootings and the coroner’s hearings.
Dame Joan suggested turmoil is being allowed to fester on both sides in the absence of “clear-cut facts which only the law can offer.”
There have been six fatal police-involved shootings this year, with the two most recent occurring within a 24-hour period.
Since November 2017, there have been 11 fatal police shootings, according to The Tribune’s records.
Reflecting on those numbers, Dame Joan said those statistics paint a bleak narrative because they aren’t juxtaposed with statistics of how such matters were resolved.
“How do you say it, justice delayed is justice denied,” Dame Joan noted.
“I’ve seen these matters first-hand, so I know the pain involved. So when I speak, that is where I speak from. You can’t have the narrative continue as is because the public will get exhausted when they don’t see the end results.”
She continued: “We need to bring speed to the system so that when we hear (police-involved shootings), we think fair and justice. Not leaning one way or the other, just the thought that no matter what happened or how it happened, that it was resolved and the matters of fact presented.”
“To get to it, address it, and allow the resolution to happen; you understand what I’m saying, resolution means a true peace.
“By the time they get to (cases), only the family remembers. The public has already moved on and forgotten.
“I wished the system addressed these cases in a faster fashion. I always operated with the view that you have to clear the deck particularly in these matters because you want to advance the thought of peace on both sides.
“Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Dame Joan continued: “Both sides feel in this, but when there is delay in the legal, judicial process, you allow the public conversations to creep in; and once that happens, the facts of the case often get lost,” she added.
Last December, Attorney General Carl Bethel called the lack of inquests into police-involved killings and in-custody deaths “distressing” and “unacceptable”.
At the time, Mr Bethel said the Minnis administration would deal with the matter aggressively, as he revealed that there were about 28 police-related deaths that require an inquest, most of which were “just there”, languishing in the system.
His comments came on the heels of a Tribune Special Report which analysed legacy issues facing Coroner’s Court, the Coroner’s Act and handling of police matters by the legal system.
Mr Bethel concluded in these comments that he would meet officials of his office and Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez to determine whether administrative or legislative fixes are necessary to address the problem.
However, to date, there has been no further recommendations made on the issue.