The court is currently considering the decision in a case wherein a woman was charged for causing an unnecessary obstruction to the free flow of traffic after she refused to follow the directions of Commissioner of Police (COP), Colin John.
Defendant, Zuleika Lewis stood trial at the Serious Offences Court (SOC) on Wednesday, February 23 for two offences allegedly committed on July 24, 2021. Firstly, that she, being the driver of PD167, did fail to remove the said vehicle when requested to do so by a police officer, when it was placed in such a position so as to cause obstruction to the free flow of traffic.
Secondly, that she did wilfully allow the said vehicle to stand on such a road so as to cause unnecessary obstruction to the free flow of traffic.
Prosecutor, Sergeant 444 Kenny Jones called the Commissioner as his first witness. John explained that at 1:27p.m he was driving along the Carriere public road, heading in the direction of Kingstown. He saw the motor vehicle, PD167 in the road, while a truck travelling in the opposite direction was also stopped. He observed that the truck had one or two vehicles behind it. John explained that he realised that none of the vehicles were moving because of traffic congestion. He said he also observed that “any competent driver” driving PD167 could have proceeded without causing an accident. Dressed in plain clothes, the COP alighted his vehicle and approached the vehicle in question. He said that the defendant was driving. John said he asked her in a polite manner to proceed, and she said in a rude manner that she is not moving and that it was them who came up on her. The Commissioner said he offered her directions to manoeuvre to pass the vehicle but recalled that Lewis again said she was not moving. John said he removed his police identification from his pocket, showed it to her and said that he is the Commissioner of Police and he is instructing her to proceed. Lewis apparently replied that she knew who he was and that she wasn’t moving.
He asked for her driver’s license, and this was handed over, at which point he took a photograph of it and her vehicle’s license plate. He then returned the license and told her she would hear from him, to which she apparently responded “I don’t want to hear from you.” The COP Whatsapped a photo of the license and plate number to the traffic department and instructed them to charge her.
The traffic was cleared when the truck reversed.
When questioned by Lewis’ lawyer, Mikhail Charles, the Commissioner submitted that the surface of the road was good and that there were no potholes in the immediate vicinity. Despite the lawyer putting it to the officer that the car was low, about four inches off the road, the COP maintained that a competent driver could have passed. John also said he went in front of the vehicle to offer assistance to her in passing.
The lawyer put forward that the congestion actually came from the truck but the Commissioner said that the congestion stemmed from the defendant’s rude and stubborn behaviour.
Charles put to him that it wasn’t really a wilful obstruction, and the COP said that it was. The lawyer followed up with the question of whether this was because of rudeness, to which John replied that it wasn’t but because she could have passed and she didn’t.
On the side of the defence, Lewis recalled that she was heading to Sion Hill to collect farm supplies and was taking the Belair route because she lives in Carriere. She was being prompted by questions from her lawyer during which she disclosed that she drives an Audi T3, and that the road is “one of the worst roads in Carriere” and very uneven.
On the date in question she said she left her gap and was driving along when she saw a big truck speeding coming up, which caused her to stop. She said the truck driver approached and was “basically” at her side. As his behaviour apparently showed her he was not a familiar user of the road, she told the truck driver that he has to be careful and that he would have gone over the embankment. Lewis said “he started about the whole women not being able to drive thing,” as she could hear him.
She said she told the truck driver that if he eased back a bit she could swing around and be able to pass. Lewis told the court that the driver continued with his “slew of words.”
As they were having a discussion, she noticed a vehicle pull up behind her and a man approached her vehicle.
“This man approached the side of my vehicle, he stood over the vehicle and rest his hand on top,” she recounted, noting that her vehicle is a low sports car so anyone would be taller than her car.
Lewis said he leaned over and told her to move the vehicle and she told him that it would be impossible to do that “because the vehicle is very low and the edge that I am on is very high and so it would be impossible for me to move it.”
“This is a road that I’ve driven every day. The precedent of this road is that whoever comes up on the right hand side goes into the dip that’s the corner,” and allows the person on the top to pass, the defendant explained in court, adding that this is how she knew the truck driver was unfamiliar with the road.
Lewis said that when the man first approached the vehicle she thought it was just a random driver given that he was standing over the top of the vehicle and she couldn’t see.
The defendant recalled that after she said she couldn’t move the man “spoke in dialect and he said ‘if you know who I be?’”
She leaned forward, saw who it was, and said she chuckled and told him ‘yes I know who you are’.
“Well I’m the Commissioner of police I’m telling you to move your vehicle,” Lewis said that the man told her.
After that she said he took her ID, went back to his vehicle, she presumed to get his phone to take a photo. During this time she said the truck reversed.
Lewis said that she couldn’t move until she got back her ID although the traffic was clear.
Prosecutor Jones questioned her about the fact that she was face to face with the truck driver and having a conversation, and Lewis said that she was looking up to speak to him. She denied that the COP went in front to assist her, and denied acknowledging that she could move but would not.
Jones asked her what prevented her from passing and she replied, “Two things. The level of my car and also that there was a drain there.”
Later during questioning she said that she knew her vehicle would be damaged.
Lewis responded that “at no time” was she hostile to the COP, confirming to the prosecutor, “I am always nice” and that of 20,000 Vincentians “they will tell you I’m nice.”
After hearing closing submissions the magistrate reserved the judgement which will be given on April 6. The defence attorney had mentioned that he was to travel on that day.