January 16, 2009
Journalist demands apology from Police Chief, compensation

The journalist who was detained by police as he took photographs at the scene of a fire late last month has demanded an apology from the Commissioner of Police (COP) and compensation “for the violation of his legal and constitutional rights.”{{more}}

At press time, Attorney General Judith Jones-Morgan confirmed to SEARCHLIGHT that she had received a letter from Grant Connell, attorney for journalist Jeffrey Trotman, but was still in the process of receiving all the relevant information before making a recommendation on the issue.

“I am working assiduously on it,” she said.

The letter dated January 8, 2009, was also copied to Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and COP Miller.

“…Such action by the police is very unbecoming and contrary to the mission statement of an institution which prides itself with protecting the life and property of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, through effective law enforcement,” the letter states.

“This approach by the police of late, to law abiding citizens such as my client, could undoubtedly have serious ramifications if not addressed with some degree of urgency,” Connell further writes.

Connell said that the compensation being demanded by Trotman should “reflect the humiliation, embarrassment and blatant disregard by the police for Mr. Trotman’s right as a Vincentian in this democratic state of ours.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves addressed the issue when questioned by SEARCHLIGHT following his address to the nation last Monday, January 12.

He said that after speaking to Trotman and hearing his version of the encounter, he told Trotman, “If I were you, I would put the government in court.”

“This (his advice to Trotman) is a clear indication that I will not approve of that sort of response (by the police), Dr Gonsalves said.

The Prime Minister also reiterated what former Attorney General Parnell Campbell made clear in a recent television programme, that is, “There is no law against anybody taking a photograph in a public place.”

While on one hand the Prime Minister, who is also Minister with responsibility for the police, referred to Superintendent of Police, Rouzendal “Bouncer” Francis, the officer at the centre of the incident, as a good and reasonable policeman, he, however, suggested that he

couldn’t fathom what could have happened on the scene of the fire that could “justify holding somebody, a journalist in a detention for five to six hours.”

“I expect that the outcome of this will be for the good of all,” the Prime Minister said.

He also clarified any misunderstanding that may have arisen from his call for cooperation with the police, and his insistence that the majority of the police officers are good officers.

Dr Gonsalves said that the excesses engaged in by some officers must be curbed but called for any criticism of the law men to be balanced. (KJ)