January 31, 2023

Cayman Islands police statement on judgment in 2012 child abuse case

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owen_t_bw_indmemRCIPS Statement on Judgment in 2012 Child Abuse Case

 We accept the criticism of the police investigation by Mr. Justice Owen, QC, in his judgment delivered this morning, as well as the verdict of the court in this matter.  We deeply regret the delays in the police investigation in this case and its outcome in terms of its potential impact on the victim.  We have extended our apology to the victim, who has demonstrated courage throughout this ordeal, especially given her age. We also apologize to the community at large. We can confirm that an internal disciplinary review of those officers involved, including supervisors, is underway.  An audit of all open child abuse investigations by senior management is also underway. 

 Despite what the events in this particular case may suggest, the RCIPS is deeply committed to the protection of children and to seeking justice for those who have been subject to abuse. 

 The RCIPS commissioned two separate external assessments in 2011 and 2013 in order to improve its capacity to safeguard children through timely interventions and coordination with other agencies.  In the years since the police report in this case was first filed in late 2012, major recommendations from these reports have been adopted by the police and other agencies (including the establishment of the Cayman Islands Safeguarding Child Board (CISCB) this May and the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub later this year) and new policies and procedures have been introduced in terms of police investigations.

 The ongoing audit of open child abuse cases, conducted by Superintendent Pete Lansdown, will determine whether any systemic failings exist despite these efforts.  (Superintendent Lansdown took up his appointment as head of all detective departments, including the Family Support Unit, in May of this year and, never having been employed with the RCIPS before, is free of any conflicts in conducting this audit.) The findings of this audit will be shared with the Governor for her evaluation as to whether an outside inquiry is appropriate. 

 Purely as a clarification we would like to point out that the victim in this matter was removed from the home when the allegations came to light in 2012.  We clarify this not to excuse in any way our handling of the investigation, but to reassure the community at the very least that investigative delays did not result in the exposure of the victim to further potential harm.

END

Please see my Editorial “The Editor Speaks: Child abuse goes mainly unpunished” dated August 3, 2016 at: https://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/the-editor-speaks-child-abuse-goes-mainly-unpunished/.

The following is part of the Editorial and describes what the case is about and the reason for the above statement by the RCIPS.

“This shocking failure of the RCIPS to take no action for more than three years after it was first reported came to light last Tuesday (2) when a child abuse case came before Justice Tim Owen QC.

When the Judge queried why the officer now in charge of the case could not explain. It had been “inadvertently overlooked” and dropped, he said.

The case involves two local men aged 21 and 38 who are on trial accused of attempted rape and indecent assault of a young girl.

These men were not interviewed by the police until 20 months had gone by after the complaint had been made. The police officer told the judge he was the first person to have spoken with the little girl and her two relatives for an hour, when they came to the police station in November 2012, had taken notes but these notes had been lost by the Family Support Unit.

Following on after that no one was ever assigned to the case and the officer said he had then overlooked it.

Another 18 months went by before the same police officer was handed the case to deal with.

The officer told the court when he started re-investigating it many of the witnesses to the assaults had left the islands.

Even more incredulously family members who lived in the house were never formally interviewed.

Even after the child had made the allegations the still left the child alone with the men and the officer viewed her as a suspect. He recommended she be charged with cruelty and neglect, but the public prosecutor did not agree.

Thankfully the child has been removed from her mother and the house where she was being abused and was taken in by another female relative.

Both men have denied the charges.”

 UK judge, Justice Tim Owen QC, today acquitted the two men not because he thought the child was lying but because of the “gross incompetence” of the police investigation. The evidence the police presented undermined the evidence and prejudiced the defendants so much that the judge had no choice but to find the two men not guilty on all counts.

He said it was a very “troubling case”.

The long delays, police missing notes, lack of specifics relating to places and times when the molestations took place, no relatives (15 lived in the same house) were ever interviewed, together with the child’s evidence that was inconsistent with the earlier interviews she had conducted with the police all lead the Judge to his acquittal verdict.

IMAGE: Tim Owen QC. https://www.matrixlaw.co.uk/member/tim-owen/

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