Police officer acquittal upheld
Prosecutors have lost an appeal against the acquittal of a police officer charged with disclosing information likely to prejudice an investigation into a fellow officer.
Emmerson Carrington was found not guilty of the offence in Magistrates’ Court after the court found that messages sent by the defendant were “highly unlikely” to have prejudiced the investigation.
While the Supreme Court found the appeal was correct on a point of law, Chief Justice Ian Kawaley found that in the circumstances a conviction was not appropriate.
Prosecutors had argued during the trial that Mr Carrington had sent Whats App messages to a female friend concerning an investigation into another police officer, who was also involved with the friend.
The messages included: “I’m not supposed to say anything but r u aware that he’s being investigated . . . Don’t want to scare u but they might come to search ur house at some point . . . ”
Mr Carrington then said that the officer being investigated — referred to in the judgment as “A” — and another individual had been sending money to “people in Jamaica from Jamaica drug men”.
Taking the stand in his own defence, Mr Carrington said there had been numerous rumours about “A” being corrupt, and that the female had said she knew ‘A’ was being investigated, although she was unaware it was a money-laundering investigation.
He also explained that he had been attempting to be a “knight in shining armour” for the female, who had been romantically involved with both men on an “on-and-off basis”.
In his judgment, Khamisi Tokunbo, the trial magistrate, found Mr Carrington not guilty, stating: “Having regard to the huge pool of police officers who knew of, were discussing/gossiping about the investigation, including [the female], I find that it was highly unlikely that the disclosure by the defendant to her would have been prejudicial to the investigation.”
The Crown, however, launched an appeal against the ruling, arguing the wrong test had been used to determine if the messages were likely to prejudice the investigation.
In a Supreme Court judgment dated December 2, the Chief Justice said that the acquittal rested on a view of law that should have proven an essential element of the offence and that the disclosure was likely to prejudice the investigation.
However, he said the Supreme Court was not in a position to make the second factual finding required for a conviction — that Mr Carrington knew or suspected that such a result was likely.
“As disgracefully unprofessional as the respondent’s behaviour undoubtedly was, his ultimate defence (if all other things were decided against him) was that he committed what his counsel described in closing as an ‘indiscretion’ and that he should be given the benefit of the doubt,” Mr Justice Kawaley wrote.
“There was credible evidence before the court that the disclosure was motivated by love and not corruption. It is impossible to safely conclude that, had the Learned Magistrate proceeded to consider whether the respondent knew or suspected that his disclosure was likely to prejudice the investigation that he would have declined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“As the respondent stated under cross-examination, he was trying to get [the female] to leave ‘A’ and he was playing the role of ‘sort of her knight in shining armour with no facts . . . ’
“Indeed, a trier of facts would have to have a heart of stone to conclude that a senior police officer should be found guilty of a career-ending offence based on such unusual facts.”
He dismissed the appeal, but noted that the point in law raised was resolved in the favour of the Crown.
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