Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Christopher Nelson is calling for the Coroner’s Act of 1896 to be repealed from the law books of Grenada.
Nelson’s call came in light of a decision handed down by High Court Judge, Justice Septimus Rudd to squash a criminal charge of manslaughter against five Police Officers who are accused of causing the death of Grenadian Oscar Bartholomew.
The St. David’s resident who obtained Canadian Citizenship was visiting Grenada with his French-speaking Canadian wife, Dollette Cyr Bartholomew when he was allegedly beaten at the St. David’s Police Station on December 26, 2011.
He suffered severe head injuries allegedly at the hands of Police Constables, 649 Edward Gibson, 675 Shaun Ganness, 237 Ruddy Felix, 748 Kenton Hazzard, and Rural Constable Wendell Sylvester before succumbing at the St. George’s General Hospital.
Justice Rudd ordered that a Coroner Inquest be held to inquire into the circumstances that lead to Bartholomew’s death.
At a Press Conference held at his office last week Tuesday, DPP Nelson declared that the Coroner’s Act is outdated, and that his recommendation to the government is to have it repealed.
He said Justice Rudd’s judgement has definitely brought out the need to recommend that the Act be repealed.
“It (the Coroner’s Act) is useless, there is no need to maintain that,” he argued.
DPP Nelson indicated that in countries such as England, Canada and some other territories in the Western Hemisphere, the criminal jurisdiction of the Coroner has been repealed.
The State Prosecutor described the Coroner’s Inquest as being an old institution which he said rose to prominence in the thirteenth and fourteenth century.
According to him, there have been instances where there have been deaths at institutions and the matter was prosecuted directly without any issue.
The DPP told the media that an inquest is one avenue through which criminal charges can eventually be laid against persons.
However, he said in these modern times, the desired route for a prosecution is not a Coroner’s Inquest.
DPP Nelson indicated that the Constitution of Grenada created the Department of the Director of Public Prosecution to lay criminal charges against anyone for any offense.
“The specifically designed agencies of the State, namely the Police Force and the Director of Public Prosecution Office are the key and the main players in the determination of laying a charge and carrying on a prosecution, not the Coroner’s Inquest,” he said.
He added that a Coroner’s Inquest may be required when the death of someone is accidental, and there is no question of foul play or criminal liability arising.
“The Coroner’s Court is formulated to satisfy the General Public that any death is properly accounted for,” he told reporters.
In a Coroner’s Inquest there is no accused person, no Prosecutor or defense, but a Magistrate who conducts a fact-finding mission to determine the identity of the dead person, and how and by what means the individual met his death.
The Coroner’s Inquest into Bartholomew’s death is scheduled to commence on April 5 at the St. David’s Magistrate’s Court.
Following police investigations into Bartholomew’s death, the DPP directed that criminal charges be laid on the five Police Officers.
A Preliminary Inquiry was already in progress when Lawyers for the accused persons filed for a stay of proceedings to allow for judicial review on the issue of the Coroner’s Inquiry.
The police officers were placed on bail in the sum of $100,000 with two sureties to be secured by the deposit of original land title deeds, and were suspended from the RGPF and placed on half month’s salary.