The capabilities of members of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force to more accurately and fairly interview suspects of crimes has been further enhanced. This was made possible by the donation of a digital recording machine from the United States Embassy, through Mrs. Sirah Abraham, Criminal Justice Advisor for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, to Commissioner of Police, Mr. Colin John.
The donation was made on Thursday July 25, 2019 at Hotel Alexandrina, the venue of the ALRIGHT 2019 Conference, hosted by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (National Prosecution Service).
While delivering brief remarks at the handing over ceremony, Mrs. Abraham stated that she was very pleased to donate the piece of equipment on behalf of the Government and People of the United States of America to the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.
According to the Regional Criminal Justice advisor “there is no doubt at all that has been shown throughout the world that the use of this machine helps ensure the fair right of trials and helps the police to ensure that when they interview suspects that they do it fairly and properly”.
Mrs. Abraham went on to say that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is already leading the way in terms of digital recording of suspect interviews and hopes that the latest donation would further boost the process.
In receiving the donation, Commissioner of Police, Mr. Colin John thanked Mrs. Abraham on behalf of the members of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police and by extension, the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Commissioner emphatically said that since the police began digitally recording the statements of suspect not only have allegations of forced confessions and impropriety on the part of the police decreased but conversely, the conviction rate in the courts has increased. According to Commissioner John, in the past, many suspects accused the police of beating them in order to confess to a crime and because it was the suspect’s word against the police’s when the matter came up for trial in the court, on a number of occasions, the court sometimes believed the story of the accused, resulting in a dismissal of the case.
He however stated that that situation has been reversed because when the suspect’s statement is recorded digitally, the court, the defence team and the public are able to see everything relating to the manner in which the statement was recorded from the beginning to the end.
The Commissioner said that digitally recording a suspect’s statement not only improves transparency in police procedures but it can serve to improve the relationship between the police and the community that they serve. He said that the plan is to equip every police station in St. Vincent and the Grenadines with a digital recording machine in keeping with twenty-first (21st) century policing methods.
Also making brief remarks at the handing over ceremony was Acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ms. Sejilla Mc Dowall who endorsed the sentiments of both the Commissioner of Police and Mrs. Abraham. She also provided some statistics on the use of the digital recording machine. According to the DPP, “since the Advent of the Interviewing of suspects for Serious Crimes Act 2012, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (National Prosecution Service) has received from 2012 to date, one thousand, one hundred and twenty two (1122) electronic interviews for various subject matter offences. To process these interviews, we have dedicated a member of staff to serve as transcriptionist. Beyond the receipt and transcription of these interviews, we can attest to the revolutionary shift that this methodology has brought about in court proceedings. The electronic interviews continue to be a magnificent tool in the hands of all our criminal justice stakeholders who have an overarching mandate to ensure that in the search of the truth, all processes are just. Without technical resources, namely new devices and continuous maintenance of these devices, then the purpose of the legislation would be frustrated. As such, the donation of this digital recording machine is very much welcomed as we strive to achieve greater efficiencies on every front and to maintain statutory safeguards”.