Systems are being put in place for a Coroner’s Inquest to be held into the circumstances that lead to the death of Grenadian-born Oscar Bartholomew who has become a Canadian Citizen, but Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Christopher Nelson is determined to challenge the decision that paved the way for the inquest.
Last week Friday Justice Septimus Rudd who is based in Antigua ruled that the Manslaughter charge that was laid on five Police Officers in connection with Bartholomew’s death be quashed to give way for a Coroner’s Inquest.
Justice Rudd’s ruling in effect paved the way for the Police Officers, 649 Edward Gibson, 675 Shaun Ganness, 237 Ruddy Felix, 748 Kenton Hazzard, and Rural Constable Wendell Sylvester to be reinstated and be given retroactive payment for the loss of income.
The men who were given bail in the sum of $100,000 with two sureties to be secured by the deposit of original land title deeds, were suspended from the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) and placed on half month’s salary.
The 39-year old Bartholomew who was at the time visiting Grenada with his French-speaking Canadian wife, Dollette Cyr Bartholomew was allegedly beaten at the St. David’s Police Station at Petit Esperance on December 26, 2011, and died the following morning at the St. George’s General hospital as a result of the injuries he sustained.
A post-mortem conducted by Pathologist, Dr. Nicholas Redhead concluded that he died from trauma to the head with multiple skull fractures, subdual hemorrhage, and increased intracranial pressure.
In a media briefing on Tuesday, DPP Nelson said Justice Rudd’s decision is alarming since his ruling seems to indicate that the investigative and prosecutorial authority in Grenada cannot proceed with a criminal charge when they feel it is appropriate to do so.
He said although he is yet to see the written judgement and the full reasons advanced by Justice Rudd, he is very concerned about that particular development.
“I am prepared to challenge at every opportunity that decision,” he added.
The DPP said while the judge’s decision can and should be challenged, the Coroner’s Inquest must go ahead.
It is scheduled to commence on April 5 at the St. David’s Magistrate’s Court.
DPP Nelson said because it is a civil matter that arose out of a criminal matter and the need for expedition, the Supreme Court Act does not permit for multiple appeal.
“I will be formulating a challenge in the aspect of the judgement that says that my charging of these five persons was premature,” he told reporters.
According to DPP Nelson once he has studied the written judgement, he will proceed to have a constitutional challenge that would get the court to declare that the orders of Justice Rudd prohibits him from carrying out his constitutional functions as DPP.
If the challenge succeeds, it can result in the criminal charges against the five Police Officers being reinstated with the DPP and Magistrate being at liberty to continue with the prosecution of the five suspects.
At the stage of the matter being halted, Bartholomew’s wife was the only witness to have given evidence in the Preliminary Inquiry.
The State Prosecutor indicated that Justice Rudd’s decision does not mean that the five Police Officers can never be recharged.
“This is not an acquittal of anybody,” he quipped.
DPP Nelson said the Coroner can only determine whether any person is liable for murder or manslaughter.
Legal officials have said that a Coroner’s Inquest is only an inquiry into the circumstances that lead to deaths that have occurred in a public place.
Justice Rudd took carriage of the Judicial Review of the Oscar Bartholomew incident that was filed by a high-powered team of defense lawyers including Dr. Francis Alexis and Anselm Clouden last October for the actual hearing of the application.