The following is hearsay … but I understand the report to be based on fact:

During the 1990’s a former UK officer serving with the Bermuda constabulary for a number of years was accused of calling a black officer a ‘kaffer’.

  • Kaffir or Kaffer 
    noun a black African (South African; offensive) a name applied to certain indigenous peoples of S Africa including the Xhosa, and to the languages spoken by them (historical); also (formerly) Caffre or Kafir 

As I have received this information second-hand, it is not possible to comment on the truth of the allegation however, the term ‘kaffer’ is not in regular usage in the UK, and certainly not in Bermuda.  Outside of South-Africa (and I have only ever heard it used in films) I know of nowhere the word is used.  Associating it with a UK officer serving in Bermuda appears odd in the extreme.  No matter, that was the allegation.

The allegation was treated seriously and instead of dealing with the issue by way of discipline, the officer found himself summonsed to appear at Magistrate’s court in Hamilton, Bermuda for an offence of ‘insulting words and / or behaviour’.

One questions whether the UK officer could have been treated fairly; the matter was investigated and considered by the prosecution service.  No one, when handling what was a career destroying allegation against the former UK officer, could find in his favour, the matter progressed to Court.  What could the prosecution team do, call the black officer a liar?

As is the way in Court proceedings, the prosecution put their case at the Magistrates Court.  The evidence against the officer was the word of the person he allegedly called ‘kaffer’; a fellow serving officer.  The evidence was given and apart from refute the allegation and stress that the words were never uttered, what could the officer, or his defence counsel, do?

Before the black officer, making the allegation, was released (allowed to leave the witness box) the Judge put a question to him:

"officer, what do you understand the term 'kaffir' to mean"

The reply from the black officer:

"I don't know what it means"

Case dismissed.

If you do not know what something means then they cannot cause you offence, the offence is not complete.

The above aptly demonstrates the lack of ability associated with the Bermuda police service; they are incapable of considering all aspects; they act in a blinkered fashion.  In this case they were blinded by the opportunity to take action against a UK officer.  It is a sad reflection on the ability of every prosecution officer considering the case.  This was a magistrates court issue, involving at worst a squabble between two police officers.  If the Bermuda police service cannot cope with the basics, what chance do they stand when confronted with more complicated issues; just about every other case they are presented.

It is not the Courts that are Kangeroo.




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