The trial into the allegations that 45 years old suspended prison officer, Louie Cupid, did collude with accused murderer Veron Primus and so helped him to escape from custody continues apace.
And if he gets his way, defence attorney, Grant Connel seems intent on summoning either (or both) top cop Colin John and/or his boss Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to appear before Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne.
On Monday former Superintendent of Prisons Brenton Charles took to the Serious Offences Court’s witness stand for a second time since the trial began. This time he was recalled by the prosecution at the behest of defence counsel.
Connel is seeking the disclosure of a set of documents best described as the records of day to day activities that happens particularly in the area known as Her Majesty’s Prison’s dormitory. Since his application to the Court several weeks ago, the prosecution failed to produce the prison diaries which, in turn, necessitated the re-appearance of the former prisons boss who is currently on pre-retirement leave.
Charles told the Court, under threat of perjury penalities, that there were in fact a set of records being kept for the dormitory – the area closest to the cell from which Primus managed the first of his two successful jailbreaks.
He also testified that those diaries would reflect “who had the keys, who opened which cells,” who fatigued the inmates, etc.
When Primus’ 2019 escape was noticed, Charles said, the dorm and the immediate area was deemed a crime scene because the local constabulary launched an investigation into the matter.
Interestingly he admitted that no particular procedures were “put into place to protect anything” because the diaries were kept as a working instrument even after the investigation started. He agreed with Connel, though, that that particular diary should have been removed and treated as evidence.
This same dormitory book, as Charles clarified the records are otherwise known, is not quite like a “class register” as was reportedly explained by Prime Minister Gonsalves and published in a The News Newspaper article following Primus’ second jaunt to freedom in December last year.
Charles recalled a host of personnel who would have access to these records. He also remembered speaking with the lead investigator on the case, then Inspector (now Assistant Superintendent of Police) Elgin Richards, before charges were laid. At that juncture Charles was aware of the diaries’ contents but could not recall if Richards had lodged any requests to copy those particular records.
He did say that all the books were available to the investigator as a matter of course and although he was unable to say for sure, Charles told the Court that he thought investigator Richards did in fact remove the same records from the prison campus.
Unfortunately, no copies were made before Richards supposedly removed the books nor was any notations charting the movements of the diaries made – before and, evidently, after their removal. Furthermore, the former prisons boss was not aware if the ASP did return the specific books in question.
Connel moved his attention to circumstances surrounding Primus’ 2020 escape – particularly the visit paid on the prisons by the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Charles submitted that he toured the compound along with PM Gonsalves and they were later joined by Commissioner of Police Colin John. While there the diaries were examined in Charles’ presence.
Connel suggested that one year after Louie Cupid was accused the diaries were not written into. Charles refuted that suggestion.
Connel again put the question to him saying that at the time of the inspection conducted by PM Gonsalves et al “it was suggested to you that it was not kept for longer than 3 years.”
Charles responded, “your Honor, we talking about the dorm diary? But it’s always in place.”
PM Gonsalves was previously quoted saying, “the dormitory book, when I asked for it – the equivalent of a class register – the Superintendent of Prisons told me in front of the other prison officers and the Commissioner of Police that it wasn’t kept.
“So I asked how long it wasn’t kept for? He paused and said ‘about three years.’ I said ‘Commissioner I get the feeling is probably longer it wasn’t kept’.”
The former prison superintendent could not recall the exact date, prior to the prime ministerial visit, on which he had cause to check the dorm diaries. Neither could he say which diaries would reflect Louie’s activities.
Although he admitted to not knowing where the diaries concering “this particular period” are kept, Charles did note that all spent books are stored in the administrative building at the Kingstown based correctional facility.
Connel was able to elicit a further admission from Charles, to wit, “prisoners were given keys to fatigue other prisoners in the past.” Though the diary is the only official record of the movement of keys etc. at no time would any records show any prison being given keys.
The prosecutor used the opportunity on redirect to establish that any prison officers who allowed prisoners to fatigue other prisoners would be in “breach of the prison regulations.”
Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delpesche also extracted, from Charles, the admission that failure to make entries in any of the prison’s diaries is also a breach of the regulations.
When the trial resumed after a short break Connel applied to the Court for leave “to summon the parties aforementioned” – namely Prime Minister Gonsalves and CoP John. He implored the Court, under the relevant sections of the law, to compel both men to present themselves.
“If you don’t do it, I will!” Connel said.
Senior Prosecutor Delpesche did not object to the application for the summons even as he told the Court, “the law is with him so he can make those decisions, but I am prepared to go forward with the prosecution’s case.”
Chief Magistrate Browne ruled that she would not entertain the application since she does “not know what’s to come.” She reasoned, should the prosecution’s remaining witnesses fail to satisfy the defence, the parties to be summoned could appear as part of their witness roster – as opposed to disrupting the Crowne’s case at this point.
Connel objected with a reminder “you have not pronounced on disclosure –”
Crime scene investigator Corporal 743 John took to the stand as an expert witness before ASP Richards presented his evidence in chief.
The matter was adjourned to August 2021 when Connel is expected to cross examine the Major Crime Unit boss.