State Minister defends SOCU’s work – says capacity and competence being strengthened
State Minister, Joseph Harmon has defended the work of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), amidst criticisms, particularly from the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which brought the quality of the Unit’s work into question.
In the statement attributed to the DPP Chambers, published in one of the dailies, it was noted that, “SOCU needs to focus on doing quality investigations before sending files to these Chambers for legal advice because charges are based on evidence and not wild recommendations.”
However, Minister Harmon on Friday made it clear that since assuming office, the Coalition Government has given SOCU the capacity to tackle organised crime, with the allocation of the necessary resources, training and exposure to international best practices and advise. He said too that SOCU merely consisted of its Head, Sydney James and inadequate staff, when this Administration took the helm of leadership in May, 2015.
“We are improving the competence and capacity of SOCU and in a lot of their investigations that are going on. It is not just that SOCU is not doing a good job, SOCU is gathering information and if in fact the persons who have the legal eye to see what it is that would stand up in court, allow it to go through, how could you blame the investigators?” the State Minister questioned.
Minister Harmon told the media corps that the investigators are doing their work, which they were trained to do, that is, to provide information, however, he noted that it is the task of the legal luminaries, who also determine whether the matters should proceed to the Court of Law or not, to identify the deficiencies and advise accordingly.
“SOCU has been complaining about it too that there are so many matters that they are finished investigating and it is not coming to the court as yet, but we have to be patient because a number of these things require careful investigation,” he noted.
The State Minister assured that the SOCU will get additional international assistance to ensure that the cases can withstand cross examination in the courts and allow the judges or magistrates to make judgments based on the evidence.
He noted further, “As you know, the magistracy, the judiciary, they are independent. We do not tell them what judgement they should give, what we do is present the evidence in court and ask that they look at it impartially and neutrally.”