By Aaron Humes: Supreme Court Justice Shona Griffith has delivered her judgment in the case of Alrick Smith Senior of Giles Street, a construction worker, and his family: wife Sandra Casey; son Leon Smith; daughter Tamica Smith and niece Ishaida Brooks.
The five were charged over a 9-millimeter pistol with 13 rounds of ammunition in the magazine retrieved by police from one of the bedrooms, which allegedly belonged to one of two youths fleeing police who ran into the residence while the family were observing a repast with friends after the murder of youngest family member Myron Smith, whom they had just laid to rest. Those charges were later dropped on the order of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal. The family subsequently sued and trial was held in April.
Justice Griffith dismissed the claims for malicious prosecution and unlawful detention from Alrick Smith Sr., Sandra Casey, Leon Smith, and Tamica Smith. However, she ruled in the favor of Ishaida Brooks, though only on the claim of unlawful detention, and she was awarded 5 thousand dollars.
Justice Griffith found that it would not have been unreasonable for the officers to have deemed all the occupants of the house where the firearm was found at the time to be under suspicion. It was established that Brooks was not ordinarily resident at the house and therefore could not be caught on that position.
Sylvestre did note in other media that Justice Griffith made it clear in her judgment that she was not endorsing the actions of police to, in her words, sit on the 4 walls of the law and just detain persons. The police could hardly be commended for, on suspicion only, imprisoning would-be suspects in very extreme and some very difficult conditions.
So how should police handle these types of cases? The police must strike a balance between their responsibilities to investigate crime, enforce the law and properly detain alleged offenders, and respecting and upholding the rights of citizens caught under the law. In other words, police officers cannot simply take the easy way out, lay criminal charges on a large group of people, and let the case resolve itself at the Magistrate’s Court. They are expected to do some fact checking before making an informed decision to charge an entire group of defendants under the Firearms Act.
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