Director of Public Prosecution Christopher Nelson has announced that preparations are being made to have the Coroner Inquest into the death of Oscar Bartholomew commence on 05 April 2013.
Last week Friday the High Court ruled that the five Police Officers charged for causing the death of Oscar Bartholomew are reinstated to the Police Force and that an inquest be held to determine who is or are culpable for his death.
Bartholomew is a Grenadian Canadian citizen who on 26 December 2011 was allegedly beaten by Police Officers at the St David Police Station while on an island tour with his wife Dolette. They had stopped to use the washroom at the station. While awaiting his wife, he mistook a plain clothes female officer for a long lost friend and hugged her. Her screams reportedly resulted in other officers running to her rescue and beating him. He died hours after getting admitted to hospital. A pathology report said he died from blunt force trauma to his skull and body.
The Coroner’s Inquest will involve the Magistrate questioning a number of persons, and his findings will determine if anyone should be criminally prosecuted. However, Nelson has expressed his concerne over the High court ruling which ordered that the coroner’s inquest be conducted before any criminal proceedings.
“The Constitution provides the DPP with power to order criminal proceedings and in my view there is something fundamentally wrong with this ruling… my hands, the office of the DPP and the Commissioner of Police are practically tied,” said Nelson who is yet to receive the written judgment which was read out by Madam Justice Margaret Price-Findlay. The matter was heard by the Justice Septimus Rhudd.
Nelson argues that the Coroner’s Act which dates back to 1896 lost relevant when Grenada established a Police Force to deal with criminal matters in the 1960s, and with the island becoming an Independent Nation in 1974.
“The Coroner’s Act is not an act for prosecutorial prosecution. The criminal aspect of the Coroner’s Act was repealed when we adopted our Constitution; the Coroner’s Act is outdated! How the Judge used an archaic legislation to make that judgment, it beats me,” Nelson said who explained, that order from the Court is not an acquittal of the charges on the accused officers. “It’s not an acquittal; it means we have to wait until the inquest is heard.”
The Coroner’s Act provides for an inquest to be undertaken whenever someone dies while in confinement in a public place of unknown cause. Nelson said that the inquest is really a fact finding inquiry and it’s not the appropriate vehicle for criminal prosecution.
“The Coroner can only determine if any person is to be charged for murder or manslaughter, but I as DPP will determine the final charge,” he said.
By Linda Straker
Photo: Director of Public Prosecution Christopher Nelson