COLUMN – Info vs rumour

SOSUEME-1There is way too much censorship going on in Barbados –– whether real or threatened. The Press being ordered off public property, and being charged with burglary, and God knows what else.

It’s starting to remind me of the Gestapo in that TV show ’Allo ’Allo. Possibly because of advertising revenues and a failure to understand that truth is the best defence to an accusation of defamation, the Press is also engaging in a fair level of self-censorship as well.

Since this is 2015 –– and not 1915 –– when the traditional media is failing or being stymied, the public is turning to social media alternatives and blogs like Barbados Underground and Naked Departure. The danger of this situation is that such outlets while they may give the reader information, which two decades ago would have been available only to a select few, such material is intermingled with a whole set of scandal and gossip which is probably incapable of being proven –– defamation.

The scandal is meant to attract those who might or might not actually read a real newspaper. And the further danger lies in the fact that these people give opinions about legal and any other matters which become accepted as fact to the less discerning.

There are matters surrounding this whole Everton Gittens saga which need some clarity, and I propose to address a few. For instance, the office of the Commissioner of Police had power to charge the goodly officer Gittens in the same way they charged the alleged thief. Reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions was not necessary, and taking 30 plus days to have this matter addressed has fuelled the conspiracy theories –– and not without good reason.

The Director of Public Prosecutions is the holder of a public office created pursuant to Section 79 of the Constitution and has powers to “(a) institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court other than a court-martial in respect of any offence against the laws of Barbados; (b) to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other person or authority; and (c) to discontinue at any stage before  judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by himself or any other person or authority”.

So, had anyone in the Commissioner’s Office had the requisite testicular fortitude, they would have charged officer Gittens with murder or whatever, and the DPP could have withdrawn the charge if he wanted.

Any accused person with enough ready cash to persuade a lawyer to drop whatever else that he or she may have going on and spend the time required to get an urgent application heard can get the same-day service that officer Gittens received. Former Magistrate Patterson used to say at Boarded Hall and District F courts that “lawyers are like cars; they need gas”. Fill them up and they run perfectly.

The average “criminal” doesn’t have that kind of money to allow anyone to forget all their other clients for the time it takes. Being a police officer headed to Dodds, I would think, would be sufficient motivation to get the lawyer “sorted out”.

Everton Gittens was either one of the police officers involved in the Myrie case, or he was not. This is one of the most easily proven aspects of this story. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has a website. The CCJ website carries video footage of its hearings. The CCJ website carries the full text of all its decisions. I refuse to tell you whether Everton Gittens was there are not, because that would not encourage you to read something other than Naked Departure.

Go to and inform yourself. Browse the whole website and learn something about our system of justice as a whole, or even just one thing which you didn’t know yesterday.

Yes, two attorneys from the same chambers are on different sides of the fence in this matter. There is a difference between chambers (where individual attorneys simply share office space and perhaps expenses) and a firm (which is two or more individuals practising as one entity).

The first is not a problem, and may only “look bad”. The second is a conflict of interest and would not have worked. And since when does having the same last name as an accused mean that you are blood relatives. Seriously?

Finally, yes, they have to put Everton Gittens in a cell away from the general prison population. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and the state is responsible for the safety of each and every prisoner. The Treasury has no money to pay his family if he gets killed in prison by some inmate who wants bragging rights for killing a policeman no matter how tarnished the reputation.

Murder is still defined in the way that it always has been: the unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought. A lack of transparency and passing the buck have ensured that “decent” people are now starting to look at the Police Force with a jaundiced eye.

Possibly a long, long time from now a jury of 12 men and/or women will decide on Everton Gittens’ fate. The length of time will not be a case of special treatment for Everton Gittens since men spend years on remand.

If his case is heard at the Continuous Assizes within less than 18 months, then that would be special treatment. If it is never heard at all . . . .

(Alicia Archer is an attorney-at-law.)

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