Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett is concerned about the number of complaints regarding police abuses that come before his Court, from time to time
And whoile he made it clear that he was in no position to say whether these complaints are true or false, he thinks he has enough judicial understanding to highlight the issue.
Persons who appear before the Courts, complain, from time to time, of being beaten or manhandled while in police custody, or in the process of being arrested or taken into custody.
Lawyers also make such complaints on behalf of their clients during the hearing of court matters.
One recent allegation involved Venezuelan national Elmundo Jose Valerio Romero who appeared at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court this week on three charges of illegal entry into this country.
Romero, who cannot speak English, told the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court, through an interpreter, that when the police met him at a house in Union Island he was unable to understand what they were saying because of the language barrier, and when he replied in Spanish, he received lash from the police officer.
Romero’s attorney Jomo Thomas told the Court that according to his instructions, his client, a 30-year-old father of a 1-year-old son, came to these shores to make life better for himself, because of the situation in Venezuela.
Thomas said, “Romero rented an apartment, and when the police came there to execute a search warrant on August 8, 2021, they roughed him up and boxed him in his face”.
The Magistrate said that while he could not say whether the information that Romero was struck by a police officer, was true or false, he keeps hearing these complaints all the time.
“It is something we have to rectify”, said Prosecutor, Sergeant Cornelius Tittle.
“Based on what the accused is saying, he can’t speak English”, Burnett noted.
“We are persons who have to deal with the public, and I am a father”, the prosecutor replied.
The Magistrate then disclosed, in the absence of Romero, who had already left the Court, after being fined, and ordered to be removed from the state, that a few months ago, a person made an allegation of police abuse, and he (Magistrate) checked it out and it was correct.
“The police must stop it”, Burnett declared, “When I speak like this, and it is published, the police will curse, but they need to come into this court, and hear what I hear”.
The Prosecutor suggested that a programme be introduced at the police training school in which constitutional law is taught, so that the police could know how to deal with certain situations.
Romero had pleaded guilty to entering the state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines at Union Island, other than at a port of entry, entering the state of SVG, and disembarking without the consent of an Immigration officer, and knowingly and willfully allowing himself to be landed as a prohibited immigrant.All three offences were committed on August 8, 2021.
Romero was fined $300 forthwith in Union Island on August 8, 2021.
Source :Hadyn Huggins for The Vincentian