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Commissioner's probe into Irwin rape case welcomed

BY HORACE HINES Observer staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 30, 2013    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — The ordering of a probe by Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington into allegations that there was misconduct on the part of the police in the investigations surrounding last year's rape of five females in Irwin, St James, was welcomed in several quarters yesterday.

Attorney-at-law Lambert Johnson, who appeared for both men, told the Jamaica Observer that he was encouraged by the commissioner's orders.

"It is very welcome news. There were causes for great concern but I was unable to produce evidence to pursue them," Johnson said during a telephone interview yesterday.

"This (probe) I hope will bring out all misconduct, if there were any and I hope if anyone was responsible they will be brought to book," he added.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Dennis Meadows, co-convenor of civil lobby group, Citizens Action for Principle and Integri-ty (CAPI), which called for a probe of possible misconduct on the part of the police.

"Given the gravity of our concerns, we find the quick response very timely," Meadows said.

He added: "Certainly, as a civil group we are willing to assist the police in their investigations if called upon. We encourage the general public who can assist to make themselves available."

Acting Commissioner of Police Devon Watkis, who was the commander in charge of the Police Area One (Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland) at the time of the incident, also welcomed the commissioner's investigation.

"The commissioner is within his absolute right in all circumstances to seek to clarify any issue of concern raised," said ACP Watkis, who is now head of the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB).

"The principle of peer review, oversight and accountability has always been a feature of modern policing and policy requirement," he said. "If there is consistency in professionalism, and in specific case where there are consistency in professionalism and the establishment of probable cause in determining an arrest, or presentation and presentation of cases; then all issues should stand such test in all investigation," said Watkis, who last year stated at a Rotary Club meeting in Montego Bay that he stood firmly by his investigators.

Another senior police who has knowledge, but was not in any way linked to the probe, sided with the investigators, citing that there were indicators which would have led the police to take the position they did.

He argued that during the preparation of the case, during the identification parade, the complainants pointed out the then accused. The senior policeman, who asked not to be named, also noted that the investigators would have laid charges following a question and answer process.

The two brothers, Kerron and Sheldon Brissett, who were charged with the rape and assault of the five females, including an eight-year-old, were last Monday acquitted of all charges in the Western Regional Gun Court after the prosecution offered no further evidence.

The brothers were jointly charged with burglary, robbery with aggravation, illegal possession of firearm, abduction and assault at common law as well as the sexual assault charges including rape, buggery, sexual touching and grievous sexual assault after they were pointed out at an identification parade.

The court was told that on September 17, 2012, an armed man reportedly gained access into the house where the females were. The men then allegedly took the females, one at a time to a nearby open lot and proceeded to rape them.

Commissioner Ellington yesterday reminded potential complainants that their full cooperation will be needed if their grouses are to be fully addressed, and gave the assurance that from time to time the public will be notified of the progress of the investigation, as much as possible.

"The Police High Command is committed to ensuring that all members of the Force are held accountable for their actions, and a full, unbiased investigation is carried out into every complaint," the commissioner said.

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