Dismantling gang far from over, lead investigator tells court
SYKES... gave police witness a “history” lesson as to why the constitution has a Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms included

Efforts by the security forces to sever the head of the venomous Klansman gang have not ended with the arrest and charge of the 33 people accused of being members and who are now on trial in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston, the lead police investigator in the matter testified yesterday.

“Even now investigations are taking place; it's ongoing. There are several lines of inquiries and there are more investigations taking place as it relates to this,” the investigator, a member of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations (C-TOC) unit of the constabulary said.

His statement was in answer to attorney Cecile Griffiths-Ashton who, in cross-examining the detective on behalf of her client Carl Beech, asked, “How long did the investigation take?”

Further in the sitting, in responding to defence counsel Denise Hinson who accosted him on the length of time it had taken for her clients Michael Whitely and Donovan Richards to be charged and the reason no criminal charges had been laid against an ex-gang member turned State witness, the detective again indicated that the efforts to gut the criminal organisation are far from over.

“As I indicated earlier to the court, the investigations are not closed,” he said.

In the meantime, the detective addressed the attorney's queries as to why the witness had not been charged, given that he openly admitted to taking part in the gang's criminal activities.

“Mr [name withheld], having come in to the police and given information, we checked the St Catherine North Police Division, Mr [name withheld] did not appear as a suspect in any of the police formations and so he was not a suspect in any matter at the time,” the sleuth said.

To the attorney's insistence of, “But he told you from his own mouth of the things he did,” the detective said, “There are other investigations that are taking place. If it leads to an arrest or further arrests I can't say… what I did was a gang investigation and it ended with a number of persons being charged.”

Nudged further by trial judge Chief Justice Brian Sykes regarding the witness not being charged despite having “given his soul”, the detective repeated, “After we checked St Catherine North he did not appear as a suspect in any of the matters. Our investigations culminated in the preparation of a case file and it was submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for a ruling; we acted on the ruling.”

At this point, several of the accused in the dock grumbled loudly with one openly declaring, “Him [Witness Number One] fi get charged.”

Meanwhile, addressing Hinson's concern about the length of time her client Richards was in custody and not placed on an identification parade, the detective said he was not the arresting officer and had been unaware of how long the accused had been in custody.

“For the period when he was in custody and not paraded, I have no control over that. I wasn't the person who took him into custody, so there must have been other investigations,” he said.

Asked by Hinson whether he had been made aware by Witness Number One that Richards had been picked up by the police, the investigator said, “Madam, it may have been that I wasn't ready to find Mr Richards.”

When Hinson pressed him further regarding Whitely who she said had been in custody for eight months before November 2018 when Witness Number One had started working with the police to take down the gang and asked, “Why did you wait until July 2019 to charge him?”

The detective replied, “I will answer you in the same way… it was not time for us to be ready for Mr Whitely.”

That, however, earned him a lecture from Chief Justice Sykes who pointed out, “This is a constitutional democracy, you can't just lock up people so.”

Said the detective, “Mi Lord, I think the counsel is being dishonest, because Mr Whitely being in custody for that period, I think he was charged and before the courts [on separate charge/s].”

Justice Sykes, in rebuking the detective, said, “I don't think counsel is being dishonest, you are using strong words here…I think you have it the wrong way around. In our democracy there is something known as the right to freedom of movement, yuh nuh, the freedom of a person.”

He then proceeded to give the detective what he said was a “history” lesson as to why the constitution has a Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms included.

“It is to prevent the State from picking up people, carting them off to wherever and you don't hear from them again…you can't just pick up people and have them there…it is a legitimate question,” the chief justice stated.

The detective, in replying, said, “I don't know why he was in custody for that length of time. After the 22nd of July 2019 when Mr Whitely appeared at the ID parade and was subsequently charged, that period I can account for, I can't account for what happened prior to that.”

He further pointed out that, with respect to the investigations into the gang, the first operation was conducted on June 25, 2019. He said prior to that date no person was taken into custody by him in relation to the gang investigation, adding that, if they were in custody prior to that it would have been in relation to other matters.

The Crown is alleging that the accused, between 2015 and 2019, carried out a range of murders, conspiracies to murder, extortion, and arson throughout St Catherine. The accused are being tried under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) (Amendment) Act, commonly called the anti-gang legislation, with several facing additional charges under the Firearms Act. The offences for which they are being charged include being part of a criminal organisation, murder, conspiracy to murder, arson, illegal possession of firearm, and illegal possession of ammunition.

Accused gang leader Andre “Blackman” Bryan is charged with, among other things, being the leader of a criminal organisation — Klansman/One Don gang.

In 2019, Tesha Miller, leader of the other faction of the gang, was convicted for orchestrating the 2008 murder of then Jamaica Urban Transit Company Chairman Douglas Chambers. Blackman, the alleged hit man, was acquitted of the killing in 2016.

Police say the fractured gang, which has a membership of around 400, has caused mayhem in the parish of St Catherine and has connections in the criminal underworld in neighbouring islands and elsewhere overseas.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

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