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Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

COI: BVI should review its law enforcement systems

COI: BVI should review its law enforcement systems

The BVI is in need of a wholesale review of its law enforcement and justice systems, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report has concluded.

According to the report’s author, COI Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom, this should not only include the front-line agencies such as the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the Financial Investigation Agency, HM Customs and the Immigration Department.

In his report, Sir Gary noted that the BVI is a small jurisdiction; but, due to a variety of factors (including the geographical), it has a history of more than its fair share of crime, including serious organised crime, with which its law enforcement and justice systems were and are not designed to cope.

“As well as not having the capability to deter, investigate and prosecute offences as they should, significant parts of the system (notably the frontline) lack good standards of governance, which has itself resulted in corruption permeating the public officials (such as police officers) involved,” Sir Gary stated.

Importantly, Sir Gary added: “Although the COI’s necessarily limited enquiries have been unable to assess the level of corruption involved, I can say on what I have seen, that it is significant.”

And according to the Commissioner, the problems and challenges faced by the BVI’s law enforcement and justice systems need to be looked at holistically.

“The jurisdiction is small enough for that to be, not only realistic, but (in my view) optimal,” he stated in the report.

What Sir Gary recommends

In addition to the institutions mentioned above, Sir Gary also recommended that the Prison Service and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions be included.

He further stated that consideration should be given as to whether it should also cover the whole or parts of the Attorney General’s Chambers and/or the courts.

“I recommend that this review forms an element of the Constitutional Review I have proposed,” Sir Gary said.

According to Sir Gary, the scope of the review will need careful consideration but it should in his view, include a review of the structure of the justice system and law enforcement.

He said this should include whether the frontline law enforcement agencies should have a lead agency and what that should be.

Consideration should also be given to which arms of government law enforcement should be placed under; and, particularly, where responsibility for border control should lie.

Issues such as resources and funding, conduct and standards, and terms and conditions should also be considered in this review, Sir Gary noted.

“The review need not be a single project – strands will need to be identified and prioritised – and it can draw on the work of reviews currently in progress in relation to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the Prison Service,” Sir Gary stated.


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