The Oscar Bartholomew issue was put back on the front burner this past week in light of the recent decision handed down by a high court judge.
If anything the Media and in particular the radio stations helped to
fuel the ignorance of the population on the exact nature of the decision and its ramifications for all those with an interest in the final outcome of the Oscar Bartholomew case.
The message which seemed to reach Grenadians based on what came out from some of the media houses was that the high court judge had handed down a decision which brought a final end to the case and that the five policemen were now totally free of any charges.
Unfortunately, many in our midst quickly concluded that the case had come to a premature end without the Preliminary Inquiry being concluded, much less allowing a judge and jury to preside over the case at the high court level.
Armed with so much misinformation, all kinds of persons throughout the country took to the airwaves to express their views on a matter in which they were so grossly ill-informed.
The end result of this free-for-all is that all sorts of wild allegations were made about our justice system as one that was unfair, bias and stacked against the poor and powerless, and that the policemen as protectors of the law were also above the law themselves.
Nothing can be further from the truth given the amount of police officers who have been brought before the court in recent years on
various charges. Yes, a few police officers might have fled the jurisdiction after being charged for serious criminal offences but this is not the norm in our country.
It was rather very unfortunate that our people were led down the road of ignorance by some of our media houses because some of the very on-air persons were themselves very ignorant of the actual decision of the judge.
One report even suggested that the decision that was arrived at came from one of our female high court judges. This was not true. The judge was merely reading out to the court the decision that was made by one of her own colleagues who heard the various arguments of the State and the Defense lawyers and arrived at his own deliberate judgement.
Thankfully, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Nelson through his public pronouncements would have totally cleared up by now the status of the Oscar Bartholomew case in the interest of all but more so for the family members of the deceased.
The world is looking on closely at Grenada and its handling of this case given the fact that Mr. Bartholomew became a naturalized Canadian citizen.
Last Friday’s ruling was all over the Canadian press within minutes of the decision being read out to the court. This should give us a clear indication about the public interest in Canada concerning the eventual outcome of the case.
Despite what we might think as a people about our legal and justice system, nothing must be done to give the outside world the impression that Grenada is a place where the rights of individuals to a free and fair trial are not guaranteed.
This is not to suggest that some people especially public figures are not bent on using the judiciary to achieve their own objectives and ends. It will always happen.
Not all persons in the legal profession – and more so judges – can be easily bought and sold for a few peanuts in order to deliver a judgment that might have been bought by someone whose sole intention is to pervert the justice system.
Our media houses and more so the radio stations could have learnt a vital lesson from their handling of the judge’s decision in the Oscar Bartholomew case: Do not open up their lines of communication for people to air their views on a subject matter that they do not understand.
This is even the more important when not even those in charge of the various on-air programming were themselves in a very good position to lead and guide the discussions on the issue at hand.
As judges would often say: Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law no matter how good is the intention of the law-breaker.
It is not the intention of this newspaper to comment in any way on the correctness or incorrectness of the decision handed down by the high court judge on the Oscar Bartholomew matter.
The system that we inherited from the British has provided for all the relevant checks and balances on decisions handed down at the levelof our Magistracy or High Court and even the Court of Appeal.
As the DPP indicated, he is not in agreement with the decision of the learned high court judge and would most likely go before the Court of Appeal to test the judgment.
As a matter of fact, the State has since announced a date in early April for the start of the Coroner’s Inquiry into the death of Mr. Bartholomew in keeping with the decision of the judge.
Mr. Nelson also hinted that based on the findings of the Coroner, the same charges can be laid by the Office of the DPP against the said police officers.
Let us as a people allow the law to take its own course in the Oscar Bartholomew case in the interest of justice for all five suspects who happen to be policemen, and also for the grieving family members of the deceased who would like to bring final closure to this unfortunate incident which happened inside a police station.