Getting away with murder

Skills of criminaL investigators under the microscope

KINGSTON – The ability, capacity, and aptitude of criminal investigators – who are already feared and distrusted by a huge chunk of the populace – are under intense scrutiny as the same tragic story is being told again and again and with terrifying frequency: people being murdered and their murderers getting away with their crimes.

Noted University of the West Indies professor, Anthony Clayton, told The Gleaner yesterday that apart from the dismal cleared-up record, fewer than five per cent of persons suspected of committing murders are found guilty when the figures
are analysed.

“The conviction rate for murder has been less than five per cent per year,” said Clayton. “This also means that someone believed to be a murderer is about three times more likely to be killed and about five times more likely to be acquitted than they are to be sentenced,” he added.

Of the 1,056 murders reported by the Jamaica Constabulary Force Serious Crimes Review as having been committed in Jamaica up to November 16 this year, only 426, or 29 per cent, were reported as being cleared up, leaving the perpetrators of the remaining 630, or 71 per cent, free to perpetrate more atrocities.

Clayton noted that the term “cleared up” simply means that the killers have been identified.

He said of the cleared-up figures between 2004 and 2010, approximately a third were killed and
two-thirds were acquitted.

“Just 12 per cent of the 39 per cent survived long enough to get to court and were duly sentenced,”
he disclosed.

Clayton noted that of the 39 per cent cleared up between 2004 and 2010, 88 per cent were cleared up when the suspected murderers were themselves killed, either in reprisals, fights with the police, or were acquitted by the courts.

Describing the cleared-up data as “numerical gymnastics”, Derrick Smith, the opposition spokesman on national security, has vowed to mount pressure on National Security Minister Peter Bunting to do something about the “frightening figures”.

Smith said the murder rate has already soared past last year’s levels.

“At this stage, we are 82 more than last year-to-date, and even more troublesome is the fact that six weeks are still left to the end of the year.”

Added Smith: “What is happening here is that after three years of decline, we are on our way up, which would suggest that the rewards that we achieved during 2010 under the limited state of emergency are wearing thin.”

Deputy Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds suggested recently that criminals are more likely
to get away with their crime because of the length of time crime fighters spend wrestling with
would-be witnesses.

But Clayton indicated that while the police force has invested significantly in training, especially over the last two years, this will take time to feed through into improved results.

“It is also important to improve investigative and forensic capabilities and the processes for managing the chain of evidence from the crime scene to the court,” added Clayton.
(Jamaica Gleaner)

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