Police defend Nation newspaper charges
Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police Mark Thompson has defended the decision to charge three officials at the Nation Publishing Company, saying that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was consulted and indicating that the media are not above the law.
In a statement issued late yesterday, after publisher Vivian-Anne Gittens, Editor-in-Chief Roy Morris and senior journalist Sanka Price went to court accused of allowing an indecent photo of two minors to be published, Thompson said that in considering the charges against the members of the Press, the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) “took full cognisance of the debates on the issues as the public saw them.”
The charges stem from the October 26, 2013 Saturday Sun publication of a story and a photograph – taken from a video posted on Facebook – which showed two schoolchildren having sex in a classroom.
Thompson acknowledged that the media have a critical role to play in a democratic society, but said the law had to be complied with.
“Obviously, as individuals, members of the RBPF have their own views and, as a collective body, the members are agreed that the article forced us as a people to have a conversation as to how we should order our society,” Thompson said.
“Notwithstanding these views, as a Law Enforcement institution the R.B.P.F is legally bound to impartially enforce the criminal law, albeit humanely.”
He said police concluded there was sufficient evidence to support the charges but still went to the DPP.
“In the circumstances of this matter, were the RBPF to lean to its own understanding some persons would claim and rightfully so that the RBPF is an institution steep in hubris and with a perverse sense of its public obligation.
Consequently, the RBPF sought the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions on the utility of preferring charges against named individuals and the advice he gave was followed,” Thompson said.
Gittens, Morris and Price were each released on $10,000 bail yesterday when they appeared before Magistrate Wayne Clarke who ordered them to hand over their travel documents as a condition of their bail.
Two teenage boys, 15 and 16, were charged the day before with photographing the children’s sex act and were released on $10,000 bail each and placed on a 7:30 pm to 6 am curfew.
Thompson said a third investigation is still underway but gave no details.