WHILE many may know of the court system we have inherited from Britain, many more may not be aware of how it works.
In this article, I wish to attempt to explain how it works, the relationship between the courts and the police and how outcomes of collaborations between the two affect you and me as individuals, if and when we’ve become suspects in a crime.
I’m prompted to do this by the on-going debate with the Director of Public Prosecution, Ronald Bei Talasasa jnr.
The DPP is an officer of the court, sworn to uphold the law. He is expected by all of us, that is every citizen of Solomon Islands, to not only uphold the law, but be seen to be upholding the law in a fair and just manner.
In the debate so far, the DPP has demonstrated arrogance and pride in the highest degree, making himself the sole authority.
The DPP even ventured into engaging in profanity, describing himself as the “soon coming in the cloud”.
I have decided to take up his challenge “to wait for him” for obvious reasons.
There are far too many questions hanging over his head in the case involving a fatal road accident in Honiara three years ago.
It is possible there could be other cases as well.
In the fatal road accident in question, Shane Snyder, a 21 year-old adopted son and an innocent pedestrian, was killed opposite Fishing Village, in suburban Kukum about 0330 on the morning of Saturday 23 September 2006.
Just one working day later, Carol Edwards, the woman police identified as the true driver of the vehicle and therefore a prime suspect, was convicted of permitting an Unlicensed Driver, fined $100 and left for Australia the same day.
A day is hardly sufficient time for police to gather the necessary evidence, including a pathologist’s report on the cause of death.
Steve Mae, the police officer who charged Ms Edwards with permitting an Unlicensed Driver, was never authorised to undertake the initial investigation, according to a police report prepared by a Member of the Police Participating Force [PPF].
The report also said that Police Constable Mae also withheld information about Mr Snyder’s death which resulted from the accident when Ms Edwards appeared in court on Tuesday 26th September 2006.
Police have also confirmed that PC Mae was never called to the accident scene as he was off duty at the time.
For some unexplained reason, he was the first officer on the scene, he was not even in uniform at 0330 in the morning.
The report also said police believed former policeman George Keso, rang PC Mae to attend to the accident.
Snyder’s life was stolen from him in a callous manner, when he was mowed down by a speeding motor vehicle, AB226, a vehicle police later confirmed was owned by Ms Edwards, a Solomon Islands’ national, resident in Brisbane, Australia.
Initial police handling of the case leaves much to be desired, and indeed question whether or not the DPP is on top of his work or that he has exercised preferential treatment in some cases over others.
In later articles, specific cases will be cited. So watch this space.
What is my interest in the case?
Apart from exposing what clearly is a display of gross incompetence and unprofessionalism, my other intention is to help protect the integrity of the Office of the DPP.
After all, the Office of the DPP is the people’s Office, not Mr Talasasa’s own as he had made it out to be.
By accepting the appointment as he has done, the DPP has agreed to shoulder the responsibility of representing the people of Solomon Islands in a court of law justly and fairly.
It is my earnest hope that in explaining how the court system works, the DPP’s role in it and the relationship between the DPP Office and police, the public will be better informed of their rights.
Perhaps, a disclaimer is in order.
It is this, that as a layman, the views expressed on the procedures are my general understanding of how the court system operates with all the players, including police, the DPP’s office and so on.
Let me begin by noting with interest earlier comments by the DPP that he “will leave no stones unturned” in the case involving the woman police said is “a prime suspect” in the fatal road accident in question.
This is how the process works.
It begins when police have established a crime scene. The next natural course of action is the gathering of all evidence relevant to the case.
My belief is that in an event or case where an accident causes death has occurred such as the case in question, the procedures are that police investigate thoroughly events that led to and all events after the death of the individual.
During the investigation, authorised investigating police ensure that all persons or parties that are involved with such an incident or accident causing death, and any other parties or persons who witnessed it are interviewed, questioned and statement taken by police.
This process must include the examining doctor at the hospital and the medical officer who received the body of the victim at the hospital and or the pathologist. Obtaining of a pathologist’s report as to the cause of death is essential.
Together with statements taken by police, this information helps police decide whether charges can be laid.
This body of information also helps police to identify the persons involved for the due process of laying or pressing charges.
The circumstances leading up to and following the incident is also paramount as it could lead to other associated charges being laid.
Once charges have been laid, the matter proceeds to court.
In the first court appearance, it is usually the police prosecution that presents all evidence relating to the case, urging the court to make a decision. Thereafter, it is the DPP’s Office that takes over.
I refer to my earlier report that based on court transcript, the matter of the death of Shane Snyder was omitted or withheld by the unauthorised police officer who carried out the initial investigation.
How could such an anomaly escape the DPP’s supposed vigilance?
The events catalogued in my report were about a fatal road accident that happened in September 2006 – three years ago today.
At that period of time, the discrepancies and or anomalies I have highlighted in my published articles should have alarmed the DPP.
If he had heard the alarm bell as we the people expect him to, the DPP should have ordered a thorough and an in-depth investigation into the matter there and then.
I believe this is when no stones should have been left unturned to find out what is going on and not promising such action three years after the fact.
Why didn’t he show any interest in the case then as he has now? Is it because at best he is selective about cases he shows interest in?
Or is it, at worst incompetence or corruption?
I refer another incident that should have alarmed the DPP.
A conscientious police officer applied to the court to have the passport of the person of interest in the matter withheld by the court in order for the police to further interview, question and carry out a comprehensive investigation in the matters that I raised in my previous articles.
I am led to believe that another police officer, perhaps in collaboration with some RAMSI personnel pressured the police officer undertaking the investigation to go to the court and to return the passport of the person of interest in the matter, so that this person could return to Australia.
It leaves the distinct impression that returning to Australia is more important than the taking of the life of an innocent person?
Here’s one other reason that should have alarmed the DPP.
The return to Australia, hence the absence of the principal person of interest in the culpable driving or driving causing death case, further frustrated and delayed ongoing police investigation.
The police report on this matter was sent to DPP on 08 October 2007.
The author was none other than Fred Saeni, the DPP’s acting director at the time, after the DPP’s Office was inundated with complaints from family members of the deceased about police handling of the case.
By ALFRED SASAKO
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