A Questelles man who was charged with escaping lawful custody more than two years ago, may have exposed further what lawyers have been complaining of for several years.
Jovanny Alexander walked free when Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett found the police in breach of Section 35 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which makes it unlawful for the police to detain anyone for more than 24 hours without charging them.
Alexander was charged with escaping lawful custody at the Questelles Police Station on September 11, 2018.
But the defendant may have simply walked out of the Police Station after being held beyond the 24-hours without being charged, and the escaping lawful custody charge subsequently brought against him was improper.
Alexander had pleaded not guilty, and the matter went to trial.
The trial concluded at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Friday, February 19, but the Senior Magistrate reserved his decision until Monday, February 22.
Attorney Jomo Thomas represented Alexander.
The Prosecution’s evidence revealed that on the date in question Alexander, who was being held at the Questelles Police Station for questioning in connection with a report, asked to use the washroom and was accompanied there by the police officer.
The officer stood at the door of the washroom while Alexander used the facility.
After the passage of about five minutes and Alexander had not exited the washroom, the officer called out to him, but got no response. The officer entered the washroom and discovered that Alexander was gone.
He was subsequently apprehended and charged with escaping lawful custody.
“He must be charged within 24 hours or his detention will be unlawful,” Burnett explained, and made reference to Section 35 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Reflecting on the evidence before him, the Magistrate concluded, “He was not charged, and the police were in breach of Section 35 of the Criminal Procedure Code.”
Lawyers have repeatedly complained about clients being detained beyond the stipulated 24-hour without being charged.
The failure of the police to charge or release Alexander within 24 hours of his detention, was the sole ground on which he was acquitted on the escaping lawful custody charge.