I read and listened with interest to the response of the Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, Q.C. to the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) from the U.S. State Department on Jamaica’s involvement in America’s illegal drug market.
Right from the start the Report notes:
Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States and local Caribbean islands. Jamaica is a transit point for cocaine trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets. In 2015, drug production and trafficking were enabled and accompanied by organized crime, domestic and international gang activity, and police and government corruption. Illicit drugs serve as a means of exchange for illegally-trafficked firearms entering the country, exacerbating Jamaica’s security situation.
But the part of the Report that drew Llewellyn’s ire seems to be the following two observations:
Jamaican law penalizes official corruption; however, corruption remains entrenched, widespread, and compounded by a judicial system that has a poor record of successfully prosecuting corruption cases against high-level law enforcement and government officials.
The momentum of progress gained within Jamaica’s law enforcement agencies, however, is limited by a chronic inability of prosecutors and the courts to keep pace and secure prompt convictions. Additional international assistance to support further efforts to reform and strengthen Jamaica’s criminal court system remains essential.
In response Llewellyn properly notes that the Report did not make any statistical comparison – and she indicates that she sees this as fatal flaw in the Report.
It is sad that the only time we see flashes of brilliance as a prosecutor from the DPP is when she is discreditably defending the many failures of her office. I, like many, wish the DPP would prosecute criminals in the courts of law with the relish which she prosecutes her critics in the court of public opinion. If only she had stopped there though. Instead, she also made the following statement:
“This is not an Alice in Wonderland scenario. We are not a banana republic! You can’t just get up and because of what you hear and what you feel or how you think, as a prosecutor or investigator, just hold on to an individual; and in order to make up numbers to satisfy international agencies or a country or a community, you just haul somebody into court and put them before the court. Charge them and put them before the court and you don’t have any cogent evidence. And you get the cogent evidence from witnesses, people, in the system who are prepared to give statements. That’s how you do it!” Source: Jamaica Gleaner
I hope I am not alone in finding it shocking to hear Jamaica’s Director of Public Prosecutions assert that witness statements from “people in the system” are the main form of evidence that we should be relying on in a Jamaica that is famous for it’s Informer Fi Dead culture. No wonder the murder rate is galloping out of control. No wonder the rule of law is being eroded daily by the cynical and criminal acts of corrupt politicians who sometimes don’t even bother to hide their dirty deeds (except in the occasional election year).
The take-aways from the DPPs 30-seconds of truth are these:
- She doesn’t appreciate the deterrent value of bringing charges to bear against corrupt public officials, who even if acquitted, could be forced in a trial to reveal collusions and acts of personal corruption that would shock the public conscience
- Significantly, the DPP seems to be unaware of the existence of other forms of evidence outside of witness testimony. Apparently the only form of “cogent evidence” that her office can present are “witness statements” from “people in the system.” No mention of forensic accounting; no mention of bank statements; no mention of disclosure forms by public officials that are criminally incomplete; and no mention of surveillance evidence (including physical surveillance such as following someone).
Gordon Robinson has properly pointed to Paula Llewellyn’s myopic focus on her win-loss count before. She unfortunately sees her office as a machine to win cases so she doesn’t bring cases that could deter future wrong-doing (especially by politicians whose lucrative careers might end after even an unsuccessful prosecution – see Kern Spencer).
This is the forfeiture of a powerful tool in her office’s arsenal. Obviously such power could be abused by a prosecutor who brings many frivolous and unfounded criminal cases against public officials – but right now we’re far from that. Used judiciously and credibly, even in scenarios where a court fails to convict, voters could act accordingly against someone who is charged and tried. Is Llewellyn indicating that she is incapable of such judicious use?
Good for the DPP that she is accountable to no-one, so she has but to show up to Gordon House periodically and cast aspersions on any critics and she is thereafter free to be as petulant and egotistical as possible.
She can thwart the efforts of multiple collaborators like the Contractor General, Public Defender or the head of INDECOM with impunity. She is free to engage in juvenile turf wars with other members of Jamaica’s law enforcement while showing no concern for the millions of Jamaicans who have to live with the contemptible failure of her office to fully execute its role in the reduction of crime.
Accustomed as we are to the DPPs assertions that her office is constitutionally accountable to no-one, it is interesting to hear her say that Jamaica is not a banana republic. This is no thanks to her, because every day her ineffective tenure as DPP continues puts Jamaica closer to that status.