Commissioners of Police (CoP) Colin John has denied allegations of abuse and savagery against former police officer Zackrie Latham who is charged with burglary, and corruption, in connection with the disappearance of guns and ammunition from the Georgetown Police Station earlier last year.
John made the denial while responding to questions from Latham’s lawyer Grant Connell, when the trial resumed before Magistrate Zoila Ellis-Browne at the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
At the voir dire (trial within a trial) stage of the trial, Latham had given evidence in which he accused various police officers, including the Commissioner, of abusing him.
At that stage the only medical report available was the one which deemed him fit to return to police custody for incarceration, after being examined by Dr. Felicia Foye at the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH).
In light of what came out at the voir dire, and the delay in getting the other medical report which dealt with Dr. Foye’s findings, Connell made an application to the Court for the Commissioner, Dr. Foye, Assistant Superintendent Adrian Francois, and a Station orderly at the Georgetown Police Station to be summoned as witnesses, stating that their evidence was essential to the just decision of the case. The Court granted the application.
CoP on the stand
The Commissioner, in his evidence, admitted that he was playing dominoes at the office of the Major Crime Unit (MUC) on June 19 last year, when Head of that Unit- ASP Richards, who led the investigations into the matter, brought Latham, handcuffed, to the MCU office. Commissioner John denied having any interaction with Latham.
Connell, however, suggested, “You attacked this young man and told him he had to talk. I am suggesting to you that you allowed your officers to abuse this man. He was slapped that caused injury to his ear, and was hit in the chest that caused tenderness.”
The lawyer referenced the draft medical report on the doctor’s findings which was read in Court by Dr. Foye, and tendered in evidence, the original copy was not available.
“I want to suggest to you that your interaction with him is when you pulled out a black plastic bag, covered his face, and squeezed it, so that he (Latham) could not breath”, Connell continued. The Commissioner denied this.
Connell further suggested that though Latham was handcuffed, he struggled and managed to burst a hole in the bag, allowing him to breathe, but the Commissioner repeated the act.
John again denied having any interaction with Latham.
“That is an act of savagery. Placing a black plastic bag over the head of someone so they could not breathe, is an act of savagery,” Connell told the Commissioner who replied, “I had no interaction with him.”
“What did officer Richards do after he brought him (Latham) in?” Connell asked the Commissioner, who responded, “I think he left with him. He is a competent officer.”
Crown Counsel Maria Jackson Richards did not question the Commissioner as to whether the allegations were true or not, instead she asked him whether he was in the habit of walking around with plastic bags, and he said no. She also questioned him in relation to his height in comparison to Latham’s height.
Doctor takes the stand
Reading from the draft medical report on her findings, Dr. Foye said Latham’s left ear and jaw were swollen, and he complained of pains to the right side of his chest, and jaw. She said there was slight redness to the right side of his head, and had a bruise there.
“When I touched his chest, he said he felt pain. He said he was attacked”.
The doctor said she had referred him to a specialist at the Male Surgical Ward because he said he was feeling pain in his left ear. She said she was thinking that the ear drum may have burst or cut or perforated. She noted that there was yellow secretion at the entrance of his left ear. He had no known medical history.
Dr. Foye said she did not ask Latham where the injuries came from, when questioned by Connell. She said there was no MRI or CT Scan done, but an X-ray was done of his skull and chest, which did not show any fractures. She said an X-ray would reveal the nature of the injuries.
When Connell asked the doctor whether she examined Latham’s neck, she said, “I don’t have it documented here, but we normally do a thorough examination”.
When Crown Counsel Jackson-Richards asked Dr. Foye, “You cannot say with certainty that the ear drum was burst, she replied, “No, nor perforated”.
Jackson-Richards then asked, “What else the yellow substance could come from?”
Dr. Foye replied, “It could come from an infected ear”.
When the prosecutor asked if she did a thorough examination in this case, the Doctor said, “I think I did”.
The Prosecutor also asked, “If a person complains of being struck in the stomach with a hard object, what would you expect to see?”
The doctor replied, “Swelling and discolouration”, but when she was asked, “Did you see any of this”? She said no.
Connell has made an application for the original copy of the medical report of Dr. Foye’s findings.
The matter has been adjourned to November 8 to accommodate the next witness slated to testify, who is currently ill.
Source : The Vincentian