TAIPEI, Taiwan: – The socio-political group People’s Movement for Change (PMC) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines says it “welcomes” the conviction of three cops charged with assaulting a 15-year-old youth, leaving him unconscious for a week.
Senior Magistrate Donald Browne last week found detectives Corporal Kasankie Quow and Constables Osrick James and Hadley Ballantyne guilty of assaulting Jemark Jackson, now 16, causing him bodily harm, on November 18, 2008.
He ordered the men to each pay the court EC$1,500 (US$556) in one month or spend six months in prison. The officers had been suspended from active duty pending the outcome of the case.
“The conviction represents an important moment in police community relations in the history of our young nation,” the PMC, which staged protest against police brutality last May, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement, which was co-signed by PMC general Secretary and Jackson’s lawyer Jomo Thomas, said the verdict was a victory for all Vincentians, “especially the poor, who have long cried out against police abuse and excesses”.
It further said the outcome was “a significant triumph” for Jackson and other working class youth, the nation’s justice system, and the police service.
“Essentially, the people won and more importantly, the nation won. For too long some police [officers] have acted with impunity, beating, humiliating, torturing and sometimes killing innocent civilians, who were arrested for the flimsiest of reasons. The conviction means that we are slowly becoming a nation of laws rather than a nation of men,” the group said.
The PMC said that police “excesses were brought into sharp relief” when cops shot and killed three young men in Vermont, an agricultural community west of capital Kingstown.
It said the circumstances surrounding those shootings are yet to be explained and its protest built the pressure for the authorities to act.
The PMC congratulated Director of Public Prosecution, Colin Williams, “for his leadership in the process and outcome of this case”.
It however said a more severe punishment would have sent a clearer signal to the police.
“The PMC will continue its vigilance on this matter and trust that the lightness of the verdict does not in any way signal that police officers should become comfortable with their behaviour,” the statement said.
The cops could have been imprisoned for a maximum of five years, but the magistrate said he would not impose a custodial sentence. He said the men acted out of “zeal” even as he cautioned cops to not abuse their authority.
The cops told the court that they had arrested Jackson and another youth in the vicinity of a high school in Kingstown, because of reports that they had threatened a boy.
James and Ballantyne had admitted in court that that part of what they said in a report to Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Wilisford Caesar in November 2008, was false.
He admitted during the trial that they had lied to their superiors.
Jackson said he was taken to the Central Police Station, where the detective threatened him with a gun, beat him with a hose, kicked him, and slammed him to the floor.
Dr. Hughes Dougan said that Emergency and Accidents Department record show that doctors were told that Jackson fell from a step and hit his stomach.
The magistrate said the case was “very, very sad and serious”, noting the policemen’s predicament and the fact that a 15-year-old was almost killed.
“What we have seen here is that he was badly beaten by the police and if [the doctors] had not taken him in hand at the time, he would have died”, the Magistrate said.