ASST COMMISSIONER OF POLICE (Ag) L. MARK THOMPSON CONCERNING THE ARREST & CHARGE OF CONSTABLE EVERTON GITTENS
Guided by our motto ‘To serve, protect, and reassure,’ the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) gave certain public assurances touching and concerning the shooting at Dash Gap, Bank Hall, which resulted in the death of Selwyn Knight and injuries to his son Junior Knight. Those assurances in essence stated that we shall serve the citizenry of Barbados by enforcing the criminal law in a manner which protects the integrity of the Criminal Justice System.
Notably, in those assurances we promised to conduct an impartial and transparent investigation with the greatest of alacrity. Importantly, we at no time wanted to sacrifice accuracy and completeness for speed.
Nevertheless, we were able to complete the investigation well before the 30 day limit for such an inquiry.
We had also promised that on completion of the investigation, we would forward the file to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for an independent review and this was done. The DPP who is the constitutional authority on all matters concerning criminal prosecution, reviewed the file and rendered his advice.
On Friday 17 April 2015, I became aware of his advice and as a consequence instructions were given to arrest Constable Everton Gittens; on Sunday 19th April 2015 this was done. Mrs. Marlene Knight the wife of the late Selwyn Knight was informed by the senior investigator that Constable Gittens was arrested and that he would be formally charged on Monday 20 April 2015 after two other matters that were conditions precedent to formal charges being preferred were dealt with. These conditions were subsequently met and on Monday 20 April 2015, Constable Everton Gittens was charged for Murder, Wounding and Endangering Life.
He appeared before Magistrate A. Seale at the District A Magistrates Court and was not required to plea to the indictable offences and was remanded until 18 May 2015.
The RBPF being cognizant of the public’s discourse on this matter including the utterances of the victims’ family, feels constrain to make a few general comments. Firstly, we understand the pain and anguish of the family members and empathize with them. Indeed, the circumstances of this case seem to make comforting words elusive, and the call for justice seems to be the only words that unite all of us. Interestingly, the notion of justice connotes different things to different people and that is why justice as expounded in law seems to be the safest approach to ascertaining what the notion really entails.
In this regard, the RBPF at all times considered the interests and the rights of the public to be kept informed of the administration of justice, particularly in the area of the enforcement of the criminal law. Nonetheless, the public’s interests and rights, have to be balanced against the rights and interests of the accused/suspect as well as the rights and interests of the victims and their family.
As most persons are aware, we operated a Due Process Model of Criminal Justice, which has elaborate protections for accused persons. Some of these protections are enshrined in the Constitution of Barbados, including the right to a fair trial. In small jurisdictions where everyone knows everyone, this right has to be jealously guarded.
It is this reality which often constrains the dissemination of information to the public, before and after a person has been charged and even during the course of a trial. Indeed, the RBPF would be very irresponsible to publicize information that it knows or should have known is likely to frustrate the right of an accused person to a fair trial, resulting in a legal challenge to the conduct of the trail itself.
- L. Mark Thompson
Asst. Commissioner of Police (Ag)