Machete murder family ‘let down’ by new trial hold-up

Jamaican murder victim Errol Bennett from Preston
Jamaican murder victim Errol Bennett from Preston
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The grieving family of a Preston grandfather hacked to death in Jamaica have slammed the island’s justice system for yet another murder trial delay.

Errol Bennett’s alleged killer had his case adjourned for a third time this week - until July - leaving relatives back in Lancashire feeling “frustrated and badly let down.”

“The way things are going we are never going to get closure,” said a family spokesman. “It’s appalling. How can we have any confidence at all in the Jamaican legal system?”

Mr Bennett, 59, was butchered in what police believe was a botched robbery at his holiday home in the Portland area of Jamaica in December 2011.

His own nephew, Josephas Clifton Bennett, 33, was arrested after a nine-month manhunt and has been in custody awaiting trial ever since.

It looked like the trial would finally go ahead last week in the Circuit Court after 18 months of legal preparation. But twice it was held up because of a backlog of cases. Then, on Wednesday, it was put off again until July 7.

“The wheels of justice turn so slowly over there,” said the family spokesman. “We have tried getting the Foreign Office here to put pressure on them to speed things up, but it’s not happening.

“An uncle was in court this week when Clifton appeared in the dock. He wasn’t asked to plead, no evidence was brought, they just said the next available date would be July 7 - and even then that might only be to set a proper trial date.

“It’s really upsetting for all the family. To us this is very important because it concerns the death of a much-loved family member.

“We want justice for what happened that day. We want some sort of closure on this after a very traumatic two-and-a-half years. But as it drags on and on we aren’t confident we will get that.”

Mr Bennett, who was born in Jamaica but moved across to England when he was 15, was a well-known member of the Caribbean community in Preston. He was a talented cricketer a founder member of the Jalgos Club in the city.

His killing was just one in a long line of murders of Jamaicans returning to the island after living abroad. At the time of his death campaigners were claiming as many as 300 similar cases had been investigated over a decade, yet not one person had been convicted.

Recent statisticss show Jamaica is the most violent island in the Caribbean with more than 1,200 killings a year. Yet the conviction rate for murder is just five per cent.

A recent report concluded that the figures were not helped by an “under-funded, over-burdened and sluggish criminal justice system with limited effectiveness in obtaining criminal convictions.”