Jamaica calls in Met boss to help cut soaring murder rate

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The Independent Online

The head of Scotland Yard has travelled to Jamaica as senior officers on the island struggle to curb a spiralling murder rate.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson is undertaking a five-day visit organised by the University of the West Indies.

Sir Paul will be keen to share the success of his colleagues solving murders and suppressing violent crime.

And he was also expected to discuss work to bring down Jamaican drug gangs operating between their homeland and London.

Critics have called for wide-ranging reforms of the police service in Jamaica as officers reel from a tidal wave of gang-related murders.

There were 1,680 killings on the island last year, its bloodiest on record, giving it one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Jamaican police charged a 23-year-old security guard several weeks ago with the murder of British honorary consul John Terry last September.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force is on a recruitment drive for detectives as part of a modernising shake-up.

But serious questions have also been raised over a criminal justice system that can take up to five years to put a suspect on trial.

It is Sir Paul's second foreign trip this year after he travelled to the Police Commissioners' Conference in Adelaide in March.

Last November Sir Paul attended a security meeting in Mumbai, the scene of co-ordinated terrorist attacks 12 months earlier.

Just weeks after taking the top job last February Sir Paul flew to Durban, South Africa, as part of a charitable exchange.

Scotland Yard has close ties with police in Jamaica. Former senior officer Mark Shields worked as deputy police commissioner for four years.

He led the 2007 investigation into the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer and was brought in to tackle gang crime and corruption.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said: "The Commissioner has accepted an invite to speak at the University of West Indies in Jamaica.

"He will be speaking about the continuing co-operation on law enforcement issues between the Met and Jamaica, specifically in relation to drugs and violent crime.

"The Met has worked closely with the Jamaican Constabulary Force for a number of years and built strong working links.

"The relationship has helped both police forces in their fight against crime linked to both London and Jamaica and intelligence sharing."

A spokesman for the University of the West Indies said: "The visit is the first in a series of planned visits of prominent international crime management experts with knowledge of contemporary trends in policing."