Police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines should keep the public abreast of their investigations into high-profile crimes, says Opposition Leader Godwin Friday.
“… you have a situation now in the country where … crimes are being committed, high profile crimes, and nothing is being — or [it] appears to the people that nothing is being done because, for one thing, the police don’t come back and report what is happening,” he said on Hot97 FM on Friday.
“Do you know what is the situation with Precious Williams’ case? Do you know about the woman who was killed out at the airport? Do we know what is happening with Mr. Cornelius John? Do we know if the person who was convicted of having nearly 60 [kilos] of cocaine and got less than three years if the prosecution going to appeal that sentence?”
Police are yet to charge anyone in connection with the death of Williams, 17, of Sion Hill, whose body was found in a bag in Richmond Hill on May 12, 2022.
They also have not made any arrest in connection with the death of Veronica “Keisha” Small, whose body was found at the tarmac of the decommissioned ET Joshua Airport, on Aug. 25, 2022, with a piece of PVC conduit protruding from her vagina.
Meanwhile, in November 2021, Assistant Director of Public Prosecution, Karim Nelson and Ashelle Morgan, a lawyer and government senator were freed, after a six-day trial, on charges related to the April 13, 2021 shooting of John at his home in Diamond.
And, on Feb. 3, 2023, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne jailed nurse Lucresha Nanton, 35, for two years and 10 months for possession of 60 kilos of cocaine at the Owia Clinic on Jan. 22, 2022.
Friday said that in the United States, when there is a high-profile case, the police and the prosecution would explain to the public what is happening.
“Not because they feel that you have to come and sort of kowtow to the public and so forth. They do it because they want to create trust. They want to create a sense that something is being done and let the public know.”
The opposition leader said this is why the courts are open and anyone can go there and follow a trial.
“… because you want to see, the public has an interest in it. And they have a right to go and to see that justice is being done. And so, they have to extend that beyond that.”
“… it does not appear that there is some certainty as to what is going to happen when you engage the criminal justice system. When that happens, people are more prepared to take chances.
“You have a situation where in Sion Hill somebody goes in broad daylight and shoots somebody,” he said, referring to the death of Daniel “Tiger” Isaacs, 43, of New Montrose, who was gunned down at a shop in Sion Hill on Jan. 29.
The opposition leader said some people would comment that there is crime everywhere.
“We know that but the point is, people all over the place don’t feel insecure because they know that something is being done about it. We don’t have that sense in this country that something is being done about it.”
Friday further said:
“When’s the last time you hear the police come and give you an update in any high-profile case to tell you, ‘Well, listen, we are making progress’?
“They don’t have to come and tell you everything that’s happening with the investigation. We understand that because we don’t want to jeopardise the investigation. But you have to bring the public on board as well. It can’t be us and them; us being the people and them being the police. It should be everybody else against crime and violence wherever it comes in this country.”
He said that not keeping the public updated creates “unease”.
“It’s like it’s not our problem. ‘This is a police matter. We going deal with it.’”
The opposition leader rubbished the prime minister’s recent comment that many of the homicides are linked to people fighting over cocaine.
“Well, then the point isn’t that the crime is somehow compartmentalised into some sort of area where you feel that this is not really a societal problem, this is not something the rest of us to be concerned about,” Friday said.
“There is always a reason. There’s always a rationale. There’s always an explanation for criminal activity,” he said, adding that there is criminal activity in the homes, in the form of domestic violence.
Friday said this cannot be dismissed by saying it is just one family and the society does not have to deal with it.
The opposition leader, who is also a lawyer, said that he would always remember learning in law school that penalties for crime do not matter if criminals think they would not be caught or that the sentence would not apply to them.
“… ultimately, the two things that deal with crime in the long term. One is deterrence, which prevents persons from taking things into their own hands.
And the other, of course, is the social conditions that we have in the country that deter people, put them into more constructive activity,” Friday said.