Convicted cops anxiously await appeal judgement
Front Page
June 11, 2010
Convicted cops anxiously await appeal judgement

Lawyers appealing the conviction of three police officers are confident they have presented a formidable case that may just lift the lawmen’s convictions.{{more}}

For now, the three officers will wait to learn their fate as the judgement in their appeal is still pending.

The appeal was heard before Chief Justice Hugh Rawlins and Justices of Appeal Ola Mae Edwards and Janice George-Creque last Friday, June 4, at a sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in Kingstown.

After hearing Sir Richard Cheltenham Q.C present their case to the court, Corporal Kasankie Quow, Constables Hadley Ballantyne and Osrick James were all smiles as they exited the courtroom.

The three men were convicted by the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on February 2, 2010, for assaulting teenager Jemark Jackson on November 18, 2008, at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

Presenting the appellants’ case, Cheltenham argued on the sole ground that the learned trial Magistrate’s reasons for convicting the three men were inadequate and did not support the conviction.

Cheltenham noted that the Magistrate’s court makes full use of the privilege position of whether the material issues in a case have been addressed and examined, whether credibility has been carefully assessed so that the court can be satisfied with the reasons given for conviction.

The Barbadian lawyer argued that the magistrate, in his decision, said that Jackson’s evidence was compelling and that he maintained a calm and confident demeanour throughout blistering cross-examination. He said that the magistrate formed a favourable impression of Jackson on the witness stand.

“There is nothing said about the demeanour of the appellants. He doesn’t do it at all. He never said, in relation to each policemen charged, that they were indignant, evasive, hesitant,” Cheltenham submitted. He added that the analysis was “most one-sided and inadequate” and there was nothing at all said about the three officers standing before him. “Why didn’t he apply that same yardstick to the demeanour of the three officers?” asked Cheltenham.

“You do not convict a man on demeanour. Demeanour may be helpful in arriving at a conviction, but you don’t convict on it,” Cheltenham continued. According to the experienced lawyer, the magistrate should have gone beyond demeanour and assessed the evidence for its reliable strength. “There is no assessment in this case of the evidence for its reliable strength and this is a fatal deficiency and shortcoming in this matter,” Cheltenham said.

As the three suspended policemen sat calmly in the prisoners’ dock with another policeman standing guard, Cheltenham continued by tackling parts of Jackson’s evidence. He said when Jemark complained of abdominal pains, he told the medical practitioners that he had fallen from some steps.

In Jackson’s testimony at the trial, however, he denied ever falling from any steps. Instead, he claimed that he was beaten with a hose by Quow and slammed on the floor three times by James and Ballantyne. Jackson was later taken to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital where he was placed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and was in a coma for seven days.

Cheltenham opined that it was necessary for the magistrate to say what aspects of the doctor’s evidence he was relying on. “To make a blanket statement and say that Jackson’s evidence corroborated with the doctor’s evidence…there’s a total absence of analysis,” the lawyer added.

Cheltenham contended that when the magistrate said the nine police officers who gave evidence at the trial were not truthful to the court, it was “grossly” unfair to the police. “Many of the police who testified for peripheral were mere links in the narrative chain…they only helped to fill up the story, but were not central to the determination of the vital issue,” stated Cheltenham.

In relation to the three appellants, Cheltenham said it was necessary for the magistrate to deal with each of them separately. “We are contending that this conviction ought to be set aside because of failure to provide adequate reasons, addressing directly the requirements of fairness…You are no longer giving a man a fair trial when you don’t give adequate reasons.”

In wrapping up his appeal, Cheltenham said because credibility is an issue in the case, the court “is in no position to substitute its finding if there were no reasons given.”

The respondents, represented by Director of Public Prosecutions, Colin Williams, argued that the case was a simple one. Williams said none of the three officers are alleging self-defence or accident, but are all in denial about the incident. The DPP pointed out that two of the officers under oath at the trial admitted that they lied to their superior.

“It is obvious how the magistrate came about his reasons and how his mind operated,” Williams said.

Regarding the issue of whether Jackson sustained his injuries as a result of him falling from some steps, Williams noted that that story was articulated by the defence. Williams told the court that Jackson, in his evidence, also denied being in any fight, which may have led to his injuries and that his injuries were consistent with the doctor’s evidence.

The three officers are still on suspension with half pay. Stephen Williams also appears for the appellants.