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Acting Commissioner of Police, Colin John. (IWN photo)
Acting Commissioner of Police, Colin John. (IWN photo)

The claim by a suspended police officer that the nation’s police chief and police officers beat him last month will not be investigated.

So said Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Thursday in Parliament in response to a question from the opposition.

Acting Commissioner of Police, Colin John, has denied beating suspended constable Ettian Charles or seeing anyone else do so when Charles was arrested in September.
Charles was among a number of persons taken into custody shortly after the Sept. 19 armed robbery of Resha Twana Browne-Caesar, wife of Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar at their Cedars home.

Charles was suspended from duty in July 2017 after he was charged with burglarising the Postal Corporation in Kingstown and stealing items and cash worth some EC$100,000.

Since the Sept. 19 robbery of Browne-Caesar, Charles has been slapped with a number of charges including robbery, possession of an illegal firearm, and murder.

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In a court appearance last month, the accused man told Senior Magistrate, Rickie Burnett that John and other officers had beaten him while he was in custody.

During Thursday’s meeting of Parliament, Member of Parliament for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre read on behalf of opposition senator Marcia “Zita” Barnwell who was absent, a question she had submitted about the allegation.

Barnwell’s question called on Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, Justice and Legal Affairs, to say whether he is concerned about Charles’ allegations against the police chief and whether the prime minister would ensure that an investigation into the matter is conducted.

Reaffirmation of constitutional rights 

In response, Gonsalves said he wanted to reaffirm the commitment of his government to the fundamental rights and freedom of all persons as detailed in the constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and as supported by statute law, case law and international conventions.

“We must not, however, having acknowledged that and having reaffirmed that as being fundamental to our democracy and our regime of individual rights and freedoms that every time an allegation is made, that, on the face of it, we are tempted to accept that allegation.”

Gonsalves said he happens to be “of a school where we believe facts are sacred and we investigate things and see what are the facts”.

He said the senator had noted Charles’ allegation that the police commissioner beat him.

“But it is equally important for it to be stated and ought to have been stated in the question that the commissioner denied also, publicly, that he never beat this gentleman. And more than that, he said that he did not see anyone beat him…

“But when a question is posed with only the allegation, that the person was beaten but the parliamentarian doesn’t say that the commissioner denied it, one, without more, may come to the conclusion there is a preference in believing the allegation by this gentleman who, parenthetically, he is a policeman on suspension who was charged with one offence while he was on suspension,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

He noted that Charles was charged with burglary resulting in his suspension and subsequently with robbery and murder.

“But yet, that view is presented as though it’s the truth. I state what I reaffirm so I am not going to say that I am concerned that somebody says that,” Gonsalves said.

He told Parliament that he proclaims “the reaffirmation of the fundamental rights and freedoms but those who want to go and believe persons in those circumstances and not to believe the commissioner — I am not saying you should believe any of them but those appear as though you’re believing one as against the other.

Ralph Gonsalves
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

No investigation

Responding to some cross talk, Gonsalves said:

“I can tell you emphatically that we’re not going to do an investigation. This gentleman has his procedural rights under the Constitution and under the law of this country. He can sue.”

The prime minister further added that House Speaker, Jomo Thomas, in his capacity as a lawyer had sued successfully three policemen who had been found guilty for beating a young man.

Thomas is not involved in the current case but was in court during the arraignment of the men, who appeared before Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett with puffy and bloodshot eyes.

The lawyer, in his weekly newspaper column in The Vincentian newspaper, noted that the court had not made any inquiries about the cause of the men’s injuries.

Thomas, in the piece, “The soul of SVG is at stake“, argued — as Benjamin Franklyn, one of the founding fathers of the United States did — that those willing to surrender essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

The former senator and candidate for Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party said:

“What is even more frightening in this regard is that accused persons show up in court with puffy faces, bloodshot eyes, swollen and broken limbs, and the Magistrates do not even bat an eye. There is no legal explanation for the failure of a judicial officer to forcefully inquire why an accused person is swollen and bloodied. Only callous disregard for a fellow human being explains this reality. And it happens far too frequently in our courts. If there is one place an accused person should feel safe, is in the courts. Instead, we frequently hear police, magistrates and judges shout at and insult accused persons and prisoners.”

Ettian Charles et al
The accused robbers. From left: Police Constable Ettian Charles, Glenville Harry, Rocuan Robinson, Olrick “Chucky” Hanson, and Elroy Rogers.

Complain to the police PR arm?

Regarding Charles’ allegations, Gonsalves said he didn’t know if a formal complaint had been made, adding that if this is done, the Director of Public Prosecution would determine whether the police chief or anyone else should be charged.

“But, as far as I know, that has not been done. Or if you don’t want to go that way where you feel because is the police investigating and going to the DPP that you may have a problem proving beyond reasonable doubt and that you may wish to go civilly.”

But if Charles were to complain, he would have to lodge that complaint with an arm of the police force that handles both complaints and public relations for the constabulary.

Thomas, in a commentary on Xtreme FM last week called the Police Public Relations and Complaints Department an oxymoron.

The police chief, in comments on Boom FM said that there is merit in Thomas’ comments that the departments should be delinked.

He, however, noted that police officers have been prosecuted based on complaints made to the same department.

Civil suit option

And, Gonsalves told Parliament that Charles can instruct a lawyer to bring a civil suit, where the bar is lower, in that he would have to prove his case only on a balance of probabilities.

“The burden, still of proof, but a lower standard of proof because then it would be a civil case for damages as distinct from a criminal one,” Gonsalves said.

“But there is nothing before me that suggests that there should be an investigation.”

Gonsalves reiterated that he has repeatedly said that when the police meet “a hardened, seasoned criminal and they go to arrest that person, there is not an obligation on the part of the police to recite to that person the beatitudes.

“I say they must carry out their work firmly but within the framework of the law. And clearly, from what I have said here, if the person were to resist, they act in accordance with the law and they have to act reasonably.

“For instance, if a fella comes to you when you are arresting him and he cuff you, it is not reasonable for you to take your gun and kill him.

“You may give him two cuff; you may reduce him into submission. But if he comes to you with a loaded gun, well, in those circumstances, flight is not your option, you respond reasonably.”

He said everyone would hear the manner in which he spoke about the rights of an individual which must be protected.

“I don’t support police beating anybody,” he said, adding that if a police officer gets a confession during a beating and the statement is struck out in court because it is tainted, the beating and resulting statement doesn’t serve any good purpose.

“So I don’t encourage any policeman to beat anybody. But that doesn’t say that when a man gets up and says the police beat me that I must believe that person without more. And it doesn’t mean that I must go and carry out an investigation.”

Gonsalves further told Parliament:

“The commissioner has communicated to me in relation to this allegation and he has answered in the manner in which he has answered in the public. And as is said here, every allegation that is brought to the attention of the prime minister is investigated. This incident is no exception.

“Would you expect me to set up a public investigation? Because this gentleman can contact any lawyer in the country to have his rights affirmed and reaffirmed through the appropriate processes.”

13 replies on “Brutality claim against COP will not be investigated — PM”

  1. Little more than expected, told you so. At least this matter will be recorded by outside international agencies.

    It will go towards the already unsuccessful attraction to tourism, and further stifle investment in SVG by outside investors.

    1. You did say this would happen and we all knew that something along these lines would happen. All over the world and throughout time corrupt people scratch each other’s backs to help eachother to get to the top. In Global News we see how a reporter was brutally murdered by officials in the Saudi Government and Trump decides to believe the Saudi explanation. It is said that the cream floats to the top and we see what kind of people are at the top of many governments, business and agencies. The best usually get easily destroyed by the sharks. We should all wonder how much of this actually goes on around the world and in SVG but never makes it to the news.
      We should all watch our backs and not be afraid. In a small country like SVG this is the case. We are too scared to stick-up for eachother. That is why these corrupt people get into these positions and stay there by protecting eachother.
      We have to hope that those that are in positions to protect us are not worse than those they are supposed to protect us from.

  2. This is insane- no investigation!!! An investigation is what puts to rest doubts and disbelief on either side… so too the sexual misconduct allegation would be swept under the carpet. This country makes me sick… no joke

  3. The smug grin tells all, the protection of each others backs whilst they carry out acts debaucherous and violent acts against the people.

  4. Why is he sitting in jail and still carrying the name police he should be fire because he’s eating the same people he destroyed money and if he win his case he will have to be payed his accumulated salary. Change the word SUSPENDED to FIRE and tie the anchor on his foot and sink him.

    1. The sexual accusation thing is not a criminal act, but in the way it has been presented if true, this man should be at the very least demoted and put out on foot patrol in Kingstown, like the policewoman that accused Gonsalves of rape was.

      Beating a prisoner with truncheon allegation, if true is a criminal act, something that if proven the man should be locked up for, and unlike those officers that almost beat a youth to death getting their police jobs back, he should not get a police job back.

      But first the man should be put on suspension whilst both matters are investigated.

      Remember this man was assistant DPP and was elected by the Minister to be police chief. Just imagine if he had been elected DPP after Williams ran to better pastures.

    2. Dear JJ ‘Junk Junky’ this is not about the alleged victim its about the police chief allegedly beating a prisoner with a truncheon.

      Your sick point of view is at the very least Gunzonian.

  5. Base on the Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines beating can amount to one of several offenses dependent on the extent of the beating or the injuries or the aggravating circumstances. These offenses are common assault, assault occassioning actual bodily harm or assault occasioning grievous bodily harm. All of these are criminal offenses with varying degrees of punishment. All of these offenses except the common assault are arrestable offenses.

    Base on the allegation of the young man the Commissioner of Police has committed a criminal offense. It is nonesene therefore and neglect of duty by the Commissioner not to have the matter investigated. The Prime Ministers explanation is also surprising nonesensical. An investigation will either exonerate the Commisioner or find him culpable of a criminal misconduct.

    While I believe the young man should face the full extent of the law for his alleged agregious crimes. It is clear that his human rights has been violated based on these allegations. In such circumstances there must be an investigation to validate or repudiate his claim. The Commissioner of Police must therefore demonstrate transpearancy and accountability to the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines by launching a full and independent investigation into the matter.

    I am a bit disappointed with the Commissioner as I hold him very high esteem. I think he means well for the country but he has to respect the rights and freedom of all Vincentians as accorded to them under the constitution and must be true to his office as the Guardian of the law. I am also very surprise at the Prime Minister’s response. This country is another step closer to becoming a socialist state.

  6. So you JJ have made a guilty verdict without a trial – you sound just like Ralph chronies… the policeman who is ordinary may be guilty but so could be the COP so one should be immediately sunk and the other go Scott free … idiotic thinking like that make SVG stink

      1. On the inside, no one suggested anyone should get away with anything, whoever does wrong must be held to task, the PM or the Police Chief, any one including a criminal.

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