A Clare Valley man cried after being freed of charges related to 70lbs of marijuana, saying, “… it hurt my heart to know that officers who supposed to protect the law come and lie so much in a courtroom”.
Inegus Miguel, 40, told iWitness News that while police officers told the court that they never beat him, they, in fact, beat him until he fell unconscious.
“When you think about how the police officers really conducted the whole case …, you expect better,” Miguel told iWitness News outside the Serious Offences Court, on Aug. 8, after being freed of charges that on Nov. 13, 2021, at Cumberland, he had in his possession 31,780 grammes (70lbs) of cannabis with intent to supply it to another and that he had the drug for the purpose of drug trafficking.
Miguel spoke to iWitness News outside the Serious Offences Court shortly after Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne upheld a no case submission by his lawyer, Grant Connell.
“… when officers could actually beat you until you pass out and come in the court and say they never touched you, it hurt my heart to know that officers who supposed to protect the law come and lie so much in a courtroom,” Miguel said.
“Then, not only that, even opening fire at a vehicle that is unarmed, with an M4 [rifle],” he further stated.
“When I see what it did to my nephew, it hurt my heart. So winning the case is not really satisfying to me but it is the intention of what the police officer intended,” Miguel said.
Connell told iWitness News that when his client was brought to court, his “face was swollen, he had a few patches. It’s the usual thing”.
He said that the prosecution’s case was that they met Miguel at sea and brought him back to shore, “collected some bag from wherever they got them from and brought them down to Cumberland and tried to create some nexus between him and the bags.
“That is why I highlighted to the officer they should have done it a little different. But that’s not my job to advise them; they are advised by the DPP (Director of Public Prosecution) and those who may know a little more than me,” the lawyer said.
Meanwhile, Miguel told iWitness News:
“I was beaten at sea until I passed out… Beaten brutally. He had to be throwing seawater in my face. When I catch myself is seawater dashing in my face. And when he bring me over to the other, I had to crawl in the vehicle.
“And those officer who were there, said they noticed nothing wrong with me. And I was in pain. All I had to say, whatever it is, I will take responsibility because I don’t want no more lick. So winning the case wasn’t the essence of the whole thing; it’s just the act and the way the police officers them carry out their duty. That is it.
“And I could imagine how many other people they lie on and do injustice to who are in prison up to this date. It is unfair as police officer to be lying blatantly.”
No case submission
In his submission, Connell asked the court to find that his client had no case to answer as the evidence was tenuous and inconsistent.
He noted that Sergeant 193 Garth Deshong, who led a party of constables from the Rapid Response Unit, told the court that they went in search of a car and did a stop and search at Belle Isle.
The officer saw the car 40-50 feet away with its headlights on.
“He had a flashlight that overpowered the headlight and he saw the number plate. … As the senior officer, he takes away an M4 and starts to shoot at a car that is no threat to the officers or anyone at all. He emptied the entire clip of 29 rounds,” Connell said, recounting Deshong’s evidence.
He noted that the sergeant told the court that the vehicle started to reverse and he saw a sack thrown from the car.
Connell pointed out that in his contemporaneous statement, Deshong did not mention who or what was in the car.
He said that the officers ran back to their vehicle, gave chase and two more sacks were thrown out of the car, Connell told the court.
“He was so meticulous, he even gave the window. That was not in the statement made soon after… What he said in the statement and at court are different,” Connell said.
The lawyer noted that Deshong further testified that he took up the sacks and went to Cumberland, where they met Inspector Nolan Dallaway and the car that they had been looking for.
“He meets the defendant and another young man who he says had an injury to his arm that he said a stick took him… He said there was not much conversation, they were taken to Central Police Station.”
Connell further noted that at no time did Deshong put it to Miguel or the other young man anything about the sacks that were allegedly thrown out of a car.
Further, the sergeant told the court that it had made no sense stopping, on the way to Kingstown, in the area where they allegedly retrieved the sack.
The lawyer further pointed out that unlike Deshong, Constable Miller, who was also a member of the RRU party, said when the car approached, warning shots were fired and when the car was reversing, the occupants threw out all three sacks.
Miller testified that the police stopped and picked up the sacks and the car was nowhere in sight.
“So we don’t know from the beginning which of the officers to believe,” Connell said, adding that while there were five officers among the party, only two were brought to court as witnesses for the prosecution.
He said there was no evidence that Miguel had custody and control of the sacks to which Deshong referred.
“It is our submission that at this juncture, the prosecution has failed; the difficulty they have is the inconsistency in the evidence. The weakness, you don’t know who to believe. If they saw any car at all is still a question. Neither officer made no mention of who was driving,” Connell said.
In response, Prosecutor Station Sergeant of Police Renwick Cato maintained that the crown had made out a case for Miguel to answer.
He said that Connell had failed to touch on the oral statement that Miguel gave in the presence of Dallaway and Deshong.
“‘Me go take the responsibility for all the weed. Ah mine and ah 50lbs’,” Cato said, quoting the alleged confession.
“It is as a result of that that the second person was discharged,” Cato said, adding that a prima facie case had been made out.
Evidence ‘quite troubling, inconsistent and poor’
In handing down her ruling, the chief magistrate pointed out that the prosecution’s case was that Miguel was met at sea and brought to land and handed over to Dallaway.
She zeroed in on Deshong’s evidence, saying that the sergeant did not say that he saw Miguel and others in the car.
The sergeant testified to seeing the car reversing at a fast rate of speed and bags being thrown from it, but not by whom.
Browne said that the sergeant’s inability to recall material elements of the case and even statements he had made was “quite troubling”.
Regarding the alleged confession, Browne said that no cannabis was found in Miguel’s custody or control at sea.
She further said that the court had noted his appearance when he first appeared in court.
“The only seeming link was the confession of a seriously injured defendant with a swollen face,” Browne said, adding that the evidence was quite troubling, inconsistent and poor”.
She said there was “unnecessary use of force” with 30 rounds of ammunition fired at a retreating vehicle from which no threat was made.