Superintendent of Prisons, Brenton Charles, left, and a section of Her Majesty’s Prisons, right. (File photos)

Superintendent of Prisons Brenton Charles, on Thursday, told iWitness News that the prison service “failed the country and we created a lot of panic” when accused murderer Veron Primus, 32, escaped overnight Monday.

“The comment that I will make is that that was a very unfortunate, embarrassing moment for the prison service and for me particularly,” Charles told iWitness News via telephone.

“I think we let down the state, we failed in what we should have done. The state expects us to keep persons who the court sent here. We failed the country and we created a lot of panic and that sort of thing.

“I just have to continually apologise to the public for what we caused and give them the assurance that sort of embarrassment will not take place again,” the prison chief said.

Charles said that the detail of how Primus was able to escape is a matter that is under police investigation.

“I wouldn’t want to comment on that at this point in time,” he said.

He further confirmed that four prison officers were in custody trying to assist police with their investigation into the prison break.

“But there are no charges or anything laid against anyone,” Charles told iWitness News in the interview around 4 p.m.

Charles sought to reassure the Vincentian public that there would not be a recurrence of the development.

“I am putting everything in place to ensure that we do not have a recurrence of this sort of thing; keep encouraging the staff to keep our security protocol intact and do their checking, to be as vigilant as they can be at all times to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Charles said that Primus was still being held at the prison in Kingstown.

“We are considering some other options now. Maybe by tomorrow we might have those properly nailed down and executed,” Charles said.

Primus, 32, escaped while on remand awaiting trial for the November 2015 murder of real estate agent Sharleen Greaves, 33.

On Wednesday, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne ordered Primus to serve a 16-month prison term for the jailbreak.

The accused murderer appeared before the chief magistrate at the Serious Offences Court in Kingstown where he pleaded guilty to a charge that between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2019, at Kingstown, while being held on remand at Her Majesty’s Prisons, he did escape such lawful custody.

The offence carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and after considering the aggravating and mitigating features of the prison break, the magistrate came up with a sentence of 22 months.

Primus received the one-third discount accorded to persons to plead guilty at the first opportunity.

The accused murderer, who returned to custody voluntarily, refused to tell police anything about how he was able to escape from prison.

In court, his only comment on the jailbreak was, “I did return voluntarily and I did plead guilty at the first opportunity.”

According to the facts presented by the prosecution, Primus was in his cell when there was a change of shift at the prison at 11 p.m. Monday.

The shift changed again at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and Primus was unaccounted for at 10 a.m., the prosecution told the court, without commenting on the prisoner’s status at 7 a.m. 

Primus returned to custody around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday after calling his court-appointed lawyer, Jomo Thomas, telling him he was at the Grammar School Playing Field in Richmond Hill, about a mile away from the prison.

Thomas escorted Primus back into custody.

10 replies on “‘We failed the country’ — prison chief”

  1. When I worked for three years in a Maximum Security Prison in the USA, (I was prior Military and had 17 weeks Law Enforcement training), anyone who let an inmate even touch a set of keys would be fired. That includes Minimum Security. I know little to nothing about the prison system in SVG but when I see some of the issue with the police, I would say those problems are even far worse than those of the Prison branch. From personal experience I know for a fact that many of the officers are conditioned to feel that giving a “beating” is part of the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) of having a person in custody, whether they are suspected of a crime or not.
    I was”detained” and got a beating even tough I was not suspected of any crime! The police involved broke many “rules” of conduct. The result: I did not even get an apology and the officers involved were later rewarded for thier behavior as officers! One or both of those officers would have been suspended from the force if they were with the organization I was in.
    The shocking part is to see what type of officers are getting promoted into the higher ranks of an agency that usually has a motto: “To protect and to serve”.

  2. So the criminal had access to a phone as well. The ones who helped him escaped should get the 22 months as well smh

  3. Proper comment, We failed our Country” not “We failed the Country”. This is an unfortunate incident but I will not blame the Superintendent of Prison’s. The state of the prison is the same as the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Cadet Force. They are all improperly resourced.

    The recently circulated photos of Central Police Station is a disgrace and a testament of the manner in which the Police Force is treated. Poor security measures at the Prison that led to this incident has led to this incident. Who is to be blame for these shortcomings? The blame rest squarely on the Prime Minister’s shoulder. He has failed to provide proper budget allocation to the Police, Prisons and Cadet Force. He continues to give them the remnants.

    The most important function of Government is the security of its people. This is above anything else. The Police, the prisons and the Cadet Force are treated like bastard children. They are given whatever is left after the legitimate children have received the best. How can the gate keepers protect us if they are not properly clothe and fed? Poor security stymied a country’s economic development, especially those that are service oriented. Security is likely to have serious implications on our way of life and economy in the years ahead of not addressed.

    Take for example. The St. Vincent Cadet Force is 83 years old but still do not have a proper headquarters or training ground. What is very disturbing is that there is an abundance of Crown Land in St. Vincent and the Grenadines that cane be easily allocated to the Cadet Force. Crown lands are being flipped and used for all sorts of things but an organization that has contributed to changing so many young lives in SVG has been left in the rain to catch a cold, which will subsequently result in it’s death. How can we say we love and care about our youth and treat them in this way? Barbados Cadet Corps budget is $3,000,000 , Trinidad is $16,000,0000. St. Vincent is a mere $75,000 if so much.

    Can you believe that we are now approaching the 21st Century and some Police Stations do not even have a computer? There is not even an intelligence database that links the entire police Force together. 999 still functions as a Police emergency dispatch and not as a national emergency dispatch for all essential services such as fire, police, NEMO, medical services, Coastguard and civil support.

    Waisting $7,000,000 in an Offshore patrol vessel for the Coastguard that sits for 80% of the time is not security smart. Smaller tactically equipped vessels will save the country monies and is a more effective measure against maritime crime. Who really advises the Prime Minister on national security matters?

    The leadership of the Police Force, Cadet Force and the Prison must demand more from the Government and people of SVG. More resources and better treatment for their members. The only real voice these organization have is that of the Vincentian public. Vincentians must advocate for better treatment of the Police Force, Prisons and the Cadet Force. If you are not the victim of a crime today you will be in the near future. Love your Police,Cadets and Prison Officers through a simple act of kindness by demanding better treatment and resources for them.

    1. Hashtag Prince says:

      Respect to you Bro Carr, your composition is robust and enlightening.

      At the same time my utmost respect the Superintendent of Prisons Brenton Charles.

      You stand as a man and took responsibility for that serious “slip-up”! You gave no excuses to justify nonsense but saw it for what it was – a security breach – hence the failure!

      I have utmost faith that you will ensure that the prison is more secure unless undermined by some political or dictatorial hand.

      Keep pressing on Chief.

  4. IT’S A SHAME AS TO HOW THE PRISON ON A HOLD IS TREATED,THE WORKERS ARE NOT BEING TRANSPORTED PROPERLY, THE VAN WILL BE SEEN AT TIMES BROKEN DOWN AT THE ROAD,DO U KNOW HIW DANGEROUS IS THAT…OFFICERS GOES HOME FROM LATE SHIFT ON THEIR OWN WHAT KING OF SYSTEM IS THAT AS THE HEAD OF NATIONAL SECURITY PLZ MR PM DO SOMETHING TI HELP THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE CHARGE TO KEEP THE CRIMINALS BEHIND BARS…THE SAFETY OF OFFICERS ARE NOT TO MENTION THWY3 NEES FIRE ARMS…THEY ARE THE LAST TYPE OF PEOLPE WHO KEEP MEN N WOMEN DYETO THE COURTS DECISION…HELP THEM PROTECT THEM MR PM SIR….

  5. In any civilised country the Prison Governor and the minister responsible [Ralph Gonsalves] would resign.

    And in some countries they would be held fully responsible and be locked up themselves.

    Dukes mention again of beating of the arrested at police stations has been going on for years. The PM [Ralph Gonsalves] did away with the PACE police Act which then encouraged this behaviour, so blame him for this as well.

    When the group of police officers almost beat a boy to death at Kingstown police station, they were charged with a lesser crime, found guilty, appealed, lost their appeal, now as convicted criminals they were given their jobs back and a little later everyone of them was promoted.

    Why?

    ASK RALPH

  6. In such a deadly serious matter we should not tolerate failure or failure, let them resign. Or ask them to go.

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