STATEMENT OF DPP

The Constitutional mandate of the Director of Public Prosecutions is, among other things, to “institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law, in respect of any offence alleged to have been committed by that person”.

It is the position of the Office of the DPP that Gino Peck committed a criminal act. Section 33 of the Firearms Act which exempts police officers from the general requirements of the Act, in our respectful view, did not apply in this case. This case was not about an officer being assigned ammunition and simply taking it home at the end of his daily tour. This case was about an officer stockpiling ammunition; an officer being assigned resources of the State, a decade and a half before, ceasing to use it in the performance of his duties and then storing it; an officer finding prohibited ammunition and instead of following procedure, taking it home and stashing it. This is not conduct that we think falls within the parameters of the exemption contained in the Firearms Act. It is a criminal act and the fact that several senior officers have come out to say that they are also guilty of that criminal act, makes it no less offensive. We came to the view, after reviewing the evidence, that justice required that Gino Peck face a trial for the offences which we say he committed. He faced that trial and he was convicted.

Sentencing is within the purview of the Magistrate and is dealt with according to its own principles. It is the Magistrate who determines, in accordance with the law, what sentence is appropriate given the facts of the case and having regard to the circumstances of the person to be sentenced. That is the purpose of a mitigation hearing. It is the duty of the Crown to assist the Court and as an officer of the Court, this was done this morning.

I read with great dismay the Release of the Commissioner of Police, backed by the Minister of Police, in which it was suggested that this Office acted improperly in pursuing criminal charges in accordance with its mandate and that this matter could have been dealt with through disciplinary action. This Commissioner of Police was not the Office holder at the time and perhaps is not fully aware of the events which led to the search, detention, charge and eventual prosecution of Gino Peck. I will not recount those events, and the Commissioner and I have since spoken on the issue, but I would simply point out, that there has been no communication between this Commissioner and this Office in relation to the matter of Gino Peck, which arose in January of 2012, but for which the trial itself only commenced late last year, 2013. Further, there was no attempt made, at any point during that period, to put Gino Peck on any disciplinary charge. It appears to us that as far as the High Command of the Police Department is concerned, criminal acts, if committed by police officers, are deserving of less condemnation. This is not the view of the persons charged with the prosecution of crime and we would invite the Commissioner and his officers to rethink that position.

In relation to the incident involving Reynaldo Verde, we have been trying, from time immemorial, to get officers to investigate before laying charges. It is a cause of great surprise that while there is still reluctance on the part of the police to do so in major cases, 3 Senior Police Officers of the Belize Police Department immediately sprung into action on behalf of Verde. We are not to be interpreted as suggesting that they were wrong to investigate, but we would just like the same enthusiasm and quest for “fairness” to attend ALL of the matters which pass through the hands of the Police.

The statements that have been forwarded in the matter have been perused and steps are being taken to verify the version of events that was so readily accepted by the Police and which led to the release of Mr. Verde. There is one matter that is outstanding and as soon as that has been addressed, a final decision will be made.

As regards the Firearms Act in general, we believe that there is some misunderstanding of the rationale behind certain provisions of the Act and the manner in which the Act is meant to operate. Sadly, this is even the case with regard to certain police officers and sometimes results in an improper application of the Act. Notwithstanding, there are in fact provisions in the Act which are a cause of concern for us as well, and we embrace the opportunity to meet with interested parties to discuss the issues that are being raised and the way forward.

Regards,
Cheryl-Lynn Vidal
Director of Public Prosecutions
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
6 Regent Street
Belize City
Belize
227-2956/227-2913/227-2915(office)
227-3032(fax)

from a friend…..

This is the text ot the response from the DPP. It is good to read a clear and positive statement of how justice should be applied. The police clearly wanted to protect one of their own, and the delay in this coming to trial, one might speculate, lies in the hope in certain quarters that this case would quietly be forgotten.

Congratulations to the DPP for applying proper justice even if the law being applied is manifestly stupid and unfair.

BUT, as the DPP indicates, justice was carried out correctly and the law properly applied. Common sense prevailed ultimately.