Barbados police defend decision to file charges against journalists

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday November 15, 2013, CMC –.The Barbados police have defended its decisions to file criminal charges against three media workers in the ongoing school sex scandal here, saying it “took full cognisance of the debates on the issues as the public saw them”.

The publisher of the Nation newspaper, Vivian-Anne Gittens, as well as the Editor-in-Chief Roy Morris and senior journalist Sanka Price, were placed on BDS$5,000 (One BDS dollar = US$0.50 cents) bail and ordered to hand over their travel documents after appearing in court here on Thursday.

They have been charged with showing an indecent photograph of two minors.

Two teenage boys, aged 16 and 15, who were allegedly responsible for capturing the act on film appeared in court on a charge of taking an indecent photograph sometime between September 1 and October 31.

They were released on BDS$10,000 bail and placed on a 7:30 pm to 6 am curfew.

The police are alleging that the photograph which accompanied the story “Sex Scene” and published on October 26 was an indecent picture of two 14-year-olds in violation of the Protection Of Children Act.

Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime), Lionel M. Thompson, in a statement said that while it is important to acknowledge the critical role the “press plays in a liberal democratic society like ours” with specific reference to the criminal justice system, the press by its transmission of the information helps to ensure that the integrity of the system is not robustly called into question. 

“In the context of information sharing, some persons believe that freedom of the press and the rights to freedom of expressions are sacrosanct constitutional rights that can be abridged in very limited circumstances.”

He said those who posit this view fortify their assertions by cautioning that the constitution and not the state is supreme and that these notions and the need for transparency have compelled the police to offer an explanation for the charges that were brought against the media workers.

Thompson said that while he constrained to speak in general terms on the case as it is subjudice, the police began “three parallel and simultaneous investigations” into the story that was carried in the Nation newspaper.

“The charging of the three persons ….represents the conclusion of one of the three investigations,” he said, adding that the second investigation had resulted in the charges being laid against the children.

“The other investigation remains open,” said Thompson, adding that in considering the charges against the media workers, the police “took full cognisance of the debates on the issues as the public saw them.

“Obviously, as individuals, members of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) have their own views and as a collective body, the members are agreed that the article forced us as a people to have a conversation as to how we should order our society.

“Notwithstanding these views, as a law enforcement institution the RBPF is legally bound to impartially enforce the criminal law, albeit humanely,” he said, adding that in pursuing the three investigations, the RBPF came to the conclusion that there was a sufficiency of evidence to support the charges that were brought.”

He said that the RBPF had sought the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions on the utility of preferring charges against the individuals and the advice he gave was followed.

“Despite these outputs and the desired outcomes, it would be very disingenuous of me if I concluded this segment without expressly stating that the members of the media have been a tremendous ally of the RBPF in its fight against crime and other anti-social or deviant behaviour, and I remain confident that this relation will continue,” he added. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)