The “Cabbage Beach Ten” outside court with their attorneys, Branville McCartney and Don Saunders, Tall Pines MP, after their case was discharged by a magistrate. Photo: Nico Scavella
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Assistant Commissioner Paul Thompson yesterday called on the Royal Bahamas Police Force to give an account of why two of its officers did not show for court proceedings on Monday related to the Cabbage Beach access case.
Mr Thompson told The Tribune he was “shocked” to read that officers tasked with providing critical intel for the execution of justice would negate their responsibilities, “whether by accident or deliberate effort”.
On Monday, two officers expected to testify were no-shows during a hearing before Magistrate Ambrose Armbrister. One of the officers had previously testified in the matter.
The police prosecutor in the case subsequently made an application to withdraw the charges against the 10 persons who faced charges in connection with the destruction of a fence blocking access to Cabbage Beach during a protest in 2016.
Magistrate Armbrister ultimately opted to not acquit the group for legal reasons, but discharged them instead. He said while only two indictable charges against one or more in the group can be brought back against them, it is unlikely that will happen based on the fact the virtual complainant in the matter never showed up to court.
Referencing the ruling yesterday, Mr Thompson said it was a tragedy that such an important case met its conclusion the way it did.
He urged the senior command of the RBPF to make clear the reasons given by the two officers involved, adding that if the reasons are not clear, the officers should be made to face an internal tribunal like they did in the past.
“Hear me carefully, the system is in place to ensure that these officers are aware of any case that they are involved in. That was the case when I was a part of the force, and I am sure that it is still the case,” he told The Tribune.
“When you have a case, prosecutors notify your station officer, who then tells you about the case. Additionally, there is a board in all stations and departments where that senior officer would write it out. You, whatever the name of the officer is, has been called to court, whatever it is, for case, whatever it is.
“The officers in this case had to know the date and the location. That is why we need an explanation for these absences.”
He added: “It looks bad. We cannot undermine the court like this. This was a waste of time and resources for this case to come this far and end the way it did.”
When asked by The Tribune how matters like this were handled when he was a member of the RBPF, Mr Thompson said: “These men would be made answer and made to do so very quickly.”
He continued: “A tribunal would be called by the commissioner of police. . . It was that simple. You would face a disciplinary board to explain why you didn’t attend.”
Mr Thompson said there were cases in which officers have been punished with fines and even the loss of days off.
Mr Thompson also recalled a case in which an officer was punished by a judge for not showing up to court. He said in that case, the officer was made to sit in on court proceedings for an entire day.
“Like I said, this was considered a serious matter. It should still be,” he told The Tribune.
The ten discharged Monday are expected to seek “substantial damages” from the government for being “maliciously prosecuted” in the case, according one of their lawyers, Branville McCartney.