Police vow to continue fighting criminal gangs

Senior staff reporter

Friday, July 10, 2020

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Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey says the not guilty verdict of the six men who had been accused of several crimes as alleged members of the Westmoreland-based King Valley Gang, though unexpected, has not taken the fight from the lawmen.

“We are not going to relent, we are going to continue to fight. What we are fighting in Jamaica is really more a war, and we will not stop until every Jamaican citizen can feel a sense of security. My officers are highly motivated and are still doing their work, and I will continue to motivate and encourage them,” he insisted.

“Even though the result is not what we anticipated, we will just have to put our efforts forward. And we believe ultimately we will get the desired results in those that are before the courts and being arbitrated,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday following Wednesday's shocking ruling.

Bailey said while they had been left somewhat nonplussed by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes's ruling, based on points raised by him in his analysis and summation ahead of the verdict which were in line with their own thinking the police will be undertaking a “post-mortem; look at the ruling in more detail, and be guided in further investigations”.

Bailey who was present in the courtroom along with a massive contingent from the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime office on Friday when Justice Sykes began his analysis and on Tuesday for the continuation said, “the fact is, we haven't had any ruling before that one on any gang case that went to trial, so we had anticipated that this ruling would have set a precedent for us to possibly identify if there were weaknesses in our investigations or strengths, because, really, we didn't have any guide”.

“We looked at the law and, based on our layman's interpretation of the law, we investigated the matter, we brought the requisite information, evidence, statements that we thought would have proven the case. We worked very closely with the [Office of the] Director of Public Prosecutions from the get-go in terms of the investigation to the point where the matters were placed before the court, and we were convinced that we had done a very good job based on our understanding of the law,” he told the Observer.

“I believe that we fulfilled all the requirements to prove the gang cases, which our interpretation did not require us to prove what I call the predicate offences. Because, if it is a necessity for us to prove the predicate offences, in my view, it would have been better for us just to go for the predicate (a crime that is a component of a more serious crime) offences,” he stated.

Justice Sykes, in delivering his verdict in the nearly seven-month-long trial, cited the absence of “support” for evidence given by the prosecution's star witness as the major deciding factor, and voiced doubt as to the credibility of the witness, noting that “to ask a court to act upon the evidence of Mr (name omitted) in the state that it is, is really a big ask in the absence of support in the areas where one would expect support in the narrative or at least an explanation”.

According to Justice Sykes, to act on the evidence of the witness in its present state “would be a grievous matter, because what it would mean is that here is a man who comes to the Supreme Court and tells us he is a murderer, a contract killer, a rapist, a robber, and a scammer, and you have these proven inconsistencies and there is no support raised”.

Sykes said he was not excited about the main witness's testimony, and “when we have very, very serious offences of this nature then clearly the evidence has to be of better quality. In the areas of his testimony where he could have been challenged, he was challenged successfully, so that says to the decider of facts, what about these other areas where there is absence of support?”

The chief justice said, other than with respect to one count, there is no other evidence supporting the narrative of the main witness on any of the other counts.

The six accused — Carlington Godfrey, alias Tommy; Rannaldo McKennis, otherwise known as Ratty; Derval Williams, also called Lukie; Christon Grant, alias Ecoy; Lindell Powell, also called Lazarus; and Copeland Sankey, also known as Tupac — had been charged in an indictment containing 11 counts on suspicion of being part of a criminal organisation; providing benefits to a criminal organisation; and conspiring to commit murder, rape, and robbery with aggravation from as early as 2013. They had been in custody since October 2018.

The prosecution's main witness, for several days at the start of the trial in January when he testified via live video link from an undisclosed location, told the court that the alleged gang members, including himself, were involved in scamming, committed murders and rapes in the course of robberies, and were contract killers. He said he, in 2018, handed himself over to the police and decided to give evidence against the other men after they killed seven of his family members, including his father, aunt, two uncles, a cousin, sister, and an in-law, in seeking to pull him out of hiding.

Yesterday, DCP Bailey said the six men freed by the courts were no choir members.

“These guys are responsible for at least 18 murders, and I must point out that five of the six have been charged currently for murder, one is a convict, and then Copeland Sankey is being questioned in relation to a quadruple murder. He remains in custody,” the DCP disclosed, adding that the case file in terms of the murder with all the evidence is available.

“Christon Grant was charged yesterday for being in possession of prohibited devices, two counts, and he was charged also for proposing to murder, contrary to section 8 of the Offences Against the Person Act, three counts. He goes to court next Thursday.

“These guys are not saints, they are vicious people. My understanding of the anti-gang legislation is that you don't have to prove the predicate offence, so we are undaunted as police officers, because we have a responsibility to protect the nation, to protect the people, and we will continue our efforts,” he told the Observer.

“We are guided by the decision of the chief justice; he is the legal mind, we are not, we have to respect the ruling, but we as law enforcement will have to do our own post-mortem of the case, hopefully we can get a look at what the ruling is in a more formal way and then we can see where the loopholes are. But I believe, and I am convinced that based on the evidence that we put forward in terms of our investigative strategy working with the DPP, I thought we had done a very good job, and I want to commend my investigators, they did exceptionally well in the midst of danger,” he stated.

“I know my officers put out their best efforts. These guys had the audacity to even threaten my officers to hurt them, that's the type of people we are talking about, threaten not just to hurt but to kill,” DCP Bailey said.

The prosecution's main witness, he said, had also lost more close relatives in the days just before the trial.

“I think the public needs to know that the main witness, two days before the trial, he lost four of his family members who were brutally murdered because he is a witness for the State. Two of his brothers, an uncle and an in-law,” DCP Bailey said.

Regarding the argument by defence lawyers on the uncharged status of the main witness who had openly admitted to committing crimes, DCP Bailey said, “He was a person of interest, we have no case against him, and the confession he gave us was not in terms of a caution statement, he spoke to us as a witness and told us what he did. It wasn't that we were investigating a case against him and he confessed. The legislation envisaged that it would be people in the belly of the beast who would come and testify, because as far as I am concerned, what else can we do to prove the case?”

As for the six men, he emphasised that they were in no way home free. “I can tell you, there are going to be additional charges; we continue to do our investigations,” he stated.

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