Amidst the debate about promotion within the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, questions are being asked about whether “the three musketeers” assigned to the High Court have been forgotten – and not just in terms of promotion.
The “the three musketeers” is the name that one person advocating for acting Corporal of Police 586 Phillips, who has more than 20 years of service, and Police Constables 212 Dasent and 821 Telesford, who have 17 and 15 years of service, respectively, gave to the officers.
The officers are assigned to the Criminal Records Office and are responsible for witness care.
Their duties include ensuring that witnesses attend court and to prepare them for their court appearance, as well as responding to other matters to ensure that High Court sittings take place as planned and run smoothly.
But one person who is familiar with the men’s situation questioned why they continue to be overlooked for promotion even as the police force does not provide them with the resources to do their job, such as a vehicle.
The person, who asked not to be named so as to speak freely on the issue, told iWitness News that the officers continue to go above and beyond the call of duty.
“They have used their own money to get witnesses to come to court. They use their own vehicle to bring witnesses to court,” the source said, noting that there is no vehicle assigned to the department of the police force to which the officers are assigned.
“They had a little buggy car that couldn’t effectively negotiate the terrain that they had to go to get witnesses all over the country. Now, they have none – unless they use their private vehicles,” the source said.
“These officers have never disappointed the court in the execution of their duties in order for a trial to go on effectively. There used to be one criminal court and these officers had to work miracles. They used to work on their days off to ensure that justice is done and that people continue to have faith in the justice system. Why do they continue to be overlooked for promotion?”
The source said that over the years, officers assigned to the court have spent thousands of dollars of their own money to give meals to witnesses, who were waiting to testify or so that they can pay their transportation to come to court and in some cases, buy clothes to wear to court.
About two years ago, a government department began to issue vouchers for meals for witnesses who spend a long time outside the court waiting to testify in matters.
“There have been no complaints from judges or the DPP Office about the performance of the officers. What are the criteria for promotion? The lower courts have from corporal straight up to inspector. The irony is so glaring.”
The source told iWitness News that if the officers were failing in the execution of their duties, the government would have come in for even more criticism as regards crime and justice in the country.
“A large number of matters before the High Court could have been thrown out because witnesses failed to attend,” the source told iWitness News.
Another source, who also asked not to be identified, told iWitness News that in addition to the officers being overlooked, the circumstances in which they operate suggest a lack of concern by the authorities about the outcome of High Court matters.
“The police authority seems not to care about the outcome of matters in the High Court because they do nothing to assist. Sometimes, there is no transportation and officers have to wait until someone lends them a vehicle.”
The source said that the witness care officers often have to go out in the night to seek out witnesses and to encourage them to attend court.
The source said that performing these types of duties after dark comes with special risks.
Generally, the prosecution uses moral suasion to encourage witnesses to testify and only resort to summoning witnesses in extreme cases, as a witness who is summoned could become hostile and intentionally harm the prosecution’s case.
“Rarely after the officers’ interaction with witnesses does it get to the point where a bench warrant is issued for a witness,” the source said.
“The officers work along with the prosecution, look for witnesses, serve documents, brief witnesses; provide witness care. Sometimes, witnesses are reluctant to go to court. The officers have to talk to them, advise them, try to get them to attend willingly. The officers can simply say they don’t have a vehicle and not go to look for witnesses. But they have all used their private vehicle and are not rewarded in any way.”
The source told iWitness News that the staffing is also a problem, noting that about a decade ago, four officers were assigned to the High Court, when there was one criminal court.
One of those officers was transferred and another resigned.
“Now that there are two courts, only one additional officer was assigned to the team and he was subsequently transferred to another department of the police force.
“There are two courts with three officers and the workload is more hectic,” the source said, adding that there are now more prosecutors “and things have changed over the last decade in terms of preparing matters; the whole court system has changed.
“When it comes to transportation, I know the Director of Public Prosecution has written to the Commissioner of Police on more than one occasion concerning transportation and other things…
“The deputy commissioner is the only one who would go out of his way to try to get a vehicle for the officers. If the deputy is not available, they have to sit there and wait.
“The guys love the job so much that they try to ensure that they get in touch with witnesses. They work on weekends; they work late.”
The source said that around 2010, a car was assigned to the officers but it was later sent to the police garage for repairs and ended up being sold at auction sometime before the pandemic.
The source noted that the last head of the team was a sergeant who retired over a year ago.
That sergeant, when was a corporal, took over from an inspector.
“The sergeant has retired and they have an acting corporal heading the team,” the source said.