08 July 2015

British 'unequal application of the law' in the Turks and Caicos Islands

By John Thompson

In a rare moment of candor the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force (“RTCIPF”) admitted they were not performing their jobs, but their explanation was that they lacked the resources to do so (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TRfYPy2X7w)

Although it is nice to have their admission, it is obvious from the recurring sprees of violence, and the unprecedented U.S. Government warning about crime in the Turks and Caicos Islands, that something has gone terribly wrong with crime management in the TCI. The statement expressed by the RTCIPF in March 2014, however, is as close as the public will get that there has been an almost total failure of Turks and Caicos Island’s policing service, and by implication by the Governor, who is responsible for policing.

Despite RTCIPF’s admission, is the breakdown in policing really the result of inadequate resources? That statement is a cop out, particularly when millions of dollars are poured into the pockets of police officers and prosecutors every month, and has been for more than seven years. 

The truth is not that the police lack resources, but that the lion’s share of Turks and Caicos Island’s crime fighting resources are poured into the pockets of a few dozen white Brits, who with the help of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (“FCO”) have hijacked the entire criminal justice system, focusing on priorities of the FCO, with insufficient funds being spent protecting citizens or tourists from violent crime, solving them, or creating the type of programs that might engage young adults. 

Instead, dozens of lilly-white-out-of-retirement English cops have been living it up at five star Turks and Caicos Islands resorts, jet setting to North America, Europe, and the Middle East, following up on spurious rumours at the public’s expense, and living a life they could not otherwise afford.

This export of the UK’s legal services, that has been thrusted upon the Turks and Caicos Islands by the FCO is big business for London 

with a half dozen or so white FCO-appointed barristers with their hands deep in the pockets of the Turks and Caicos Islands treasury, with no effective oversight in what has become endlessly running investigations and trials. With defendants that are all black, facing allegations that involve white developers bribing black politicians. The prosecutions are so obviously racist that only an out of touch all-white group with myopia can’t see it, or who because of a lack of effective oversight are too arrogant to feel it matters.

On 24 January 2013 the highly respected Professor Trevor Munroe, an executive director of Jamaica’s National Integrity Action group and a member of the global corruption fighting group Transparency International, wrote to the Turks and Caicos Islands Governor about what he politely termed the “uneven application of the law” in the TCI.

His concern was the deals Helen Garlick’s SIPT hatched with white developers and businessmen while blacks are being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That letter was given scant attention. Six months after Munroe’s letter the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) sent a ministerial fact finding mission to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and they too had concerns. They published their findings on 11 July 2013.

CARICOM found widespread sentiments that: (1) no regional persons are on the SIPT, giving the impression that it is intended to treat Belongers as crooks and target only Islanders for prosecution, that (2) justice is for sale to foreigners while locals face criminal charges and jail time, that (3) there is a complete disconnect between TCI and British narratives and perspectives, and that (4) there are widespread concerns over the UK’s manipulation of Turks and Caicos Islands’ criminal justice system, including removal of the right to trial by jury, changes to the laws on the collection and admissibility of evidence, etc.

More than two years later, in what can be described as a snub, there has been no public response by the UK government to that important regional body’s report but, more alarmingly, there has been no substantive movement on any of the recommendations in the report, except for what can only be described as an admission of guilt.

Immediately after Munroe’s and CARICOM’s criticisms the SIPT struck a civil settlement with one of their black defendants, and in a bizarre turn that speaks volumes about the integrity of the criminal justice system, on a completely unrelated matter the SIPT, who are privately engaged by the FCO to pursue political corruption in the Turks and Caicos Islands, laid criminal charges against two prominent and long standing white residents (one Irish and the other Scottish), on a closed inquiry involving a property sale in 2006 (seven years earlier!), that is unrelated to the subject for which they were engaged.

The purchase was immediately flagged at the time, but ultimately ignored by all prior authorities. Clearly the only reason for those prosecutions was to rehabilitate the SIPT’s reputation as a racist team. Hundreds of thousands of dollars later, the prosecutions have fallen flat on their face.

Two years later, however, the SIPT remains lilly white and all-British, right down to their support staff, which is shocking when you consider that London, the city from which most of its members are drawn, is multicultural, but also when the UK Government is acutely aware of the injustices that are metered out by police forces that do not reflect the ethnic makeup of the communities they serve.

Save for the two white defendants in the separate unsuccessful trials they engineered to rehabilitate their reputations, the SIPT’s defendants remain all black. The SIPT also continues to doggedly pursue non jury trials for their black defendants, on the foot of legislation they engineered under an interim administration that was headed by a Governor who regularly commented on the guilt of the SIPT defendants, a remarkable phenomena in a criminal justice system where defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and where the Governor appoints the persons who hire the local judiciary.

The point is that while governing involves tough decisions about the allocation of scarce resources between competing ends, and reasonable persons will always argue over the split, the manner in which Turks and Caicos Island’s financial resources are allocated in crime fighting simply cannot be defended. Garlic and her team have relieved the Treasury of more than $60M over the last seven years in the longest running gravy train in the country’s history, while the local police force has remained under resourced, under trained, and wholly ineffective.

Just prior to March 2004 the entire police force in Providenciales was operating with just one vehicle, and at times none. That’s right. None. As ridiculous as that might sound it is true. But it is not just crime. The treasury has been plundered at the expense of every Government service, and the generally deplorable state of public schools, education, the scholarship program, investment in capital projects, infrastructure, and job creation are just a few victims.

The UK Government has done a grave disservice to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and local Government seems content to have had the FCO agree to just the return to elected Government.

For starters they should all be ashamed of themselves, the Governor should resign, local Government at a minimum needs to insist that the SIPT reflect the cultural and ethnic makeup of the country, and it needs to bring sanity back to the allocation of this territory's resources, insisting that the U.K. Government foots the bill for its racist and resource-depleting SIPT.

Better yet, good riddance and a one way ticket to London is in order.