A police officer walked from the High Court on Wednesday after being freed of a rape charge hanging over his head for almost eight years. After deliberating for about three hours, a nine-member Jury, comprised of six females and three males, found Constable Keith Thompson not guilty of raping a 15-year-old female prisoner while she was in custody at the Questelles Police Station, July 10, 2011.
The Jury returned a majority verdict of 7 to 2, which was accepted by the Court. The trial had commenced at the Criminal Assizes last week Tuesday before Justice Brian Cottle. Thompson was represented by Attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, while Crown Counsel Karim Nelson led the case for the Prosecution. According to the virtual complainant’s evidence, on the afternoon of July 10, 2011, Thompson, who was on duty at the Questelles Police Station, took her to the washroom to urinate after she asked him to. The girl said she pulled down her pants, and underwear, but when she turned around to flush the toilet, Thompson, who was standing outside, came from behind, grabbed her by the neck, placed her in a bending position and had sex with her, without her consent. He then took her back to her cell. The complainant was among seven witnesses to testify for the Prosecution, including a number of police officers, one of whom told the Court that the girl told him, Thompson was her ‘man’ and usually had sex with her.
In his defence, Thompson, a police officer since 2001, denied that he raped the prisoner or had sex with her. He recalled that on July 9, 2011, he and other police officers from the Questelles Police Station were on duty in the area for almost the entire day, and the following day, the Sergeant, at the time in charge of the station, told him to take a rest because he was not feeling well. He turned up for duty at midday, and another officer whom he identified as PC Verna John volunteered to stay with him at the station office downstairs.
Thompson said that at no time did the complainant ask him to use the washroom. He said the bathroom in her cell which includes facilities to urinate and deficate, was in working condition, and she was allowed to use it.
He also recalled that on July 2, 2011, the complainant had escaped twice from the Questelles Station where she was held on remand. She was recaptured on both occasions, and instructions were issued for her not to be removed from her cell. Thompson said he was transferred to the Central Police Station on July 19, 2011, and two days later he was relieved of duty, and asked to take off his uniform.
Constable Roderick John, who was out of state while the trial was ongoing, was not called by the Prosecution but was subpoenaed to testify for the defence, via skype. He told the Court that the complainant told him Thompson took her to the washroom, and she gave him sex, but she was scared because she subsequently thought she was pregnant.
He admitted that police officers were not supposed to have sex with prisoners or juveniles in custody.
In his closing arguments, Nelson pointed out that, while there were inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence, she maintained throughout that Thompson had sex with her, without her consent. He said it was quite common, when dealing with events that took place several years ago, for witnesses not to remember details. Nelson explained that it does not mean the complainant consented because she did not scream or fight up. He noted that she was in an environment where the police were in control, and she had to do what they told her.
But Bacchus-Baptiste argued that it was not just the inconsistencies, but the girl’s evidence was conflicting. She noted that in one of the complainant’s witness statements, she said she pushed her hand through a rail and touched Thompson’s penis.
The lawyer said the complainant kept saying in her statement that she had sex with Thompson, and “in one little part she said, ‘without my consent’”. The lawyer further argued that there was no other to corroborate the complainant’s story, and the medical evidence did not support the report of rape. She questioned, “Why wasn’t there an internal investigation?” Thompson was suspended on half pay, pending the outcome of the matter.(The Vincentian)