Grenada’s Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Christopher Nelson, said Monday the State is considering its legal options after a High Court dismissed manslaughter charges against five police officers accused of causing the death of a Canadian visitor in December 2011.
Lawyers for the accused men – Constables Kenton Hazzard, Wendell Sylvester, Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness and Ruddy Felix – had filed a motion claiming that the DPP acted against the Coroner’s Act which mandates that an inquest must be held for persons who died in a public place, such as a prison.
But Nelson says he believes it’s the first time the act has taken precedence over criminal proceedings.
“There is no precedent so far as I am aware, certainly not in Grenada,” he said.
The officers were accused of beating Toronto’s Oscar Bartholomew, 39, into a fatal coma on Boxing Day, 2011 while he was in a cell in the rural village of St. David’s. He later died at the General Hospital.
Relatives said he had been arrested after he hugged a plainclothes policewoman whom he had mistaken for a friend and she yelled, “Rape”.
Bartholomew was in Grenada to visit family with his wife of 10 years, Dolette Cyr.
A post mortem carried out by the State as well as an independent pathologist hired by the family said he died from internal injuries including skull fractures due to blunt force trauma to the body.
“This ruling means that the charges must be dropped and an inquest held,” said Nelson who told reporters that he was still awaiting the written ruling of Justice Septimus Rhudd, who heard the matter. The judge’s ruling had been delivered by Justice Margaret Price-Findlay.
“However, we are considering our legal options and a decision going forward will be announced during the week,” he said.
Attorney Derrick Sylvester, who represents the family of the dead man, described the ruling as “a short term victory.
“This is not the end of the matter,” he added.