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Editorial: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

IT IS now more than three years since Osworth Rolle was shot dead by Detective Constable Kendrick Brown.

A jury considered the evidence last April and returned a verdict of unlawful killing after hearing that Mr Rolle was shot three times, with each of the bullets travelling downwards in Rolle’s body, a trajectory described as unusual by a forensic pathologist during the hearing before the coroner.

After the ruling, the victim’s mother, Christina, said of the verdict: “God is good. To God be the glory. Great things He has done.”

Her husband, in the aftermath of the verdict, said: “I want the officer to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law… if this man takes my son’s life unlawfully… why should he just be able to say he was in the line of duty and should not be held accountable for what happened?”

That was in April – and to date nothing more has been done, it would seem, to charge the officer with a crime. The Rolle family felt vindicated when the jury agreed their son was killed unlawfully – and now they feel betrayed by a system that won’t do anything about it.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Garvin Gaskin, met the family several weeks after the verdict and said no decision on a prosecution had been made. He also said he was uneasy about a video – not presented during the inquest – of a witness saying that Osworth had pointed a weapon at police.

As the family rightly asked, if the video was so important, why wasn’t it presented in court? An offer was apparently made to show the family the video – but not with their attorney present. It is hard to imagine what reason could possibly be suggested for denying the family the presence of their legal representative.

It all speaks to a lack of seriousness in dealing with accusations towards officers. Immediately after the verdict, police commissioner effectively shrugged off the outcome, saying it was not his job to suspend officers who have carried out unlawful killings.

“The law,” he said, “mandates the commissioner to supervise the Royal Bahamas Police Force and at this stage the officer is on active duty and there is nothing that prevents him from being on active duty.”

We have written before about how there seems to be a lack of seriousness with which such accusations are taken – and this is just the latest example.

In one complaint, three people said they were tortured by police in Eleuthera only to be released – and after they made a formal complaint and didn’t hear anything for a year, they were called to the police station only to be told that time had run out for their complaint to be dealt with, even though it was the police who had done nothing with the complaint and let time run out.

So now we have the case of Osworth Rolle, now nine months on from the inquest verdict and three years and two months on from the killing itself. How long must his parents be made to wait? How long can the state justify not providing answers?

There is a long-time saying in the legal community that justice delayed is justice denied – and every day that the Rolle family is denied an answer as to why charges have not been brought is a denial of the principles of justice itself.

We could pick out dozens of cases where brutality has been alleged or police officers have been accused of overstepping their bounds, and to go with those cases we can point to lots of words from officials.

Take National Security Minister Marvin Dames. In August last year, after an incident in Exuma, he said: “We’re not here to cover up for anybody and that will not be accepted, not in this force. Police officers, law enforcement officers have taken an oath to protect the citizens of this country and those who visit and we expect that they live up to that oath.

“No one is above the law whether you are in uniform or whether you are in public life. Nobody is above the law and where it is found out at the end of the day that persons whether they are law enforcement officers or public officials are in breach of the law, they will be treated like anyone else and I can assure you of that.”

With an officer still on duty and no sign of a prosecution despite a jury delivering a verdict of unlawful killing, that assurance is looking pretty thin.

If Bahamians are to have confidence in their police force, the system must be equal – and it must do better.

Be watchful, not fearful

As the world looks with concern toward China after the outbreak of the coronavirus in the city of Wuhan, we think particularly of Bahamians studying there.

Five remain in the city at present – and thankfully all are well at present.

The virus itself has already spread to the United States, Canada, Thailand, France, Japan, South Korea and Australia – but calls to block all visitors from China are misplaced. Also, while the headlines are frightening, as Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands points out, there remain bigger threats from measles and influenza.

Instead, The Bahamas is listening to the advice of global health experts and following the recommendations given. As Dr Sands says, entry screening has not been very effective, so exit screening is the recommended approach.

That said, for those concerned, there are steps that can be taken – frequent washing of hands, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoiding close contact with people showing symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

It is important not to panic – but wise to be watchful. And in the meantime, spare a thought for those far from home in the heart of the outbreak. For them, the worry is on their doorstep, and their health should be our paramount concern.

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