Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Curtis Warren----More Questions Than Answers
As one can see in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council’s Press Summary which I referred to in last week’s Blog, the UK Court was very critical of the Police’s role in the events leading to the arrest. The Press Summary makes reference to  JRC 050). (AG v Warren and others) which is the Ruling issued on 20th March 2008 on an application for a stay of proceedings on the grounds of abuse of process?
On reading both reports it becomes apparent that there were a number of questions asked and advice sought before the police operation actually got underway. It would seem that the best intentions of the Jersey police officers were being frustrated by red tape and/or lack of co-operation from other agencies. The clock was ticking away and swift action was required however should one lie or withhold the truth to justify arresting someone? Did the ends justify the means? Red tape is often in place for a purpose; some times that red tape is actually a law which is intended to prevent abuse.
One thing certain is that as a result of one group of people breaking the law it led to another group of people, a team of traffickers hell bent on breaking another law, that of importing around one million pounds worth of drugs to Jersey being foiled, arrested and convicted.
It may well be that it is in the public’s interest that the convictions should stand. However was it a Pyrrhic victory? In the Jersey Royal Court’s Judgement there is a quotation from Lord Bridge who said “no principle is more basic to any proper system of law than the maintenance of the rule of law.” That is a powerful quotation which should be to the forefront of all those tasked with the maintenance of the rule of law, that includes Crown Officers.
It is to the role of the Crown Officers in the case that is worth a second glance.When reading the Judge’s comments on role played by Crown Advocate Jowitt a senior member of the Law Officer’s Department I had difficulty understanding his logic. The Judge found him to to be an honest witness and deemed him to be an Advocate of integrity. It appears that the Judge based his claim on the premise that he gave evidence before him for some considerable time was subjected to rigorous cross-examination.
However in the next paragraph the Judge states that the advice the Advocate gave to the Police Officers with hind sight may have been more carefully and felicitously expressed and he should have considered and researched the law more carefully than he did. However as the Judge considered the Advocate to be honest and well intentioned, he acquitted the Advocate of any impropriety or criminality or of acting recklessly or in disregard of the law.
That’s all very well but the Judge was not so generous with remarks about the Police Officers for whom I hold no brief but it does take two to tango and it is apparent that there are three versions of the truth, that of the police, the Advocate and the actual truth which is probably somewhere in between.
The Advocate must have known what the Officers were trying to achieve and were seeking advice not from someone at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (no offence intended) but from a Senior Crown Officer. In my book the advice should have been clear, precise and in writing. As it is we now have the situation where it is the word of one officer against another officer, with the Crown Officer’s word apparently having more weight than the Police Officers even though the advice given was personal and not to be relied on.
The Attorney General does not come out the affair with flying colours either. It is apparent that he mis-led the Dutch authorities in a letter and he also gave them an undertaking not to proceed with the case without their clear consent.
Fortunately for the AG, the Judge also believes him to be a man of integrity, so even if they make the odd mistake or two the Crown Officers are jolly good fellows and no blame should be apportioned to them. But hang on, the Crown Officers are also the people who give consent to prosecute, so how does that square with the Judge? Were the Crown Officer’s mistakes simple or were they intentional? Whatever the answer it will never be convincing and will be further ammunition to those who have called for a separate Crown Prosecution Service.
From the evidence to hand it is pretty obvious that Warren and his team were up to no good and had they succeeded with their plans they would have received a nice pay day and Jersey would have been awash with illegal drugs. So perhaps they deserve to be behind bars. But life is not that simple and one can be sure that Curtis Warren will be spending a great deal of his time and money appealing against his conviction. I understand he is claiming that his Human Rights were violated and it will be interesting to see whether he is successful. Should he succeed he could be in for a nice compensation killing and Jersey’s Police and Crown Officers will be left with all mighty egg on face.
We know that the Hampshire Police have been investigating the police actions and its report is due in the near future. However if we are going to get to the bottom of the affair then the role of the Crown Officers should also be subject to an investigation and the outcome made known to the public.
As one can imagine I shall not be holding my breath as there is little likely hood of any investigation taking place into their role in the affair. However one would hope that the Crown Officers now have a system in place whereby any advice given is accurate and in writing.