Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Christopher Nelson, QC has dropped strong hints that a charge of murder could be slapped against the four police officers implicated in the December 2012 death of 49-year-old Oscar Bartholomew.
Nelson told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that new evidence in the possession of the Prosecution could see the charge upgraded from Manslaughter to Murder.
He said that based on the availability of certain evidence, which the prosecution was not privy to at the initial stage of the case, there is a possibility that the charge could be upgraded from Manslaughter to Murder.
According to the DPP, he is anticipating a speedy trial in the case against the four officers who last week Friday were committed to stand trial for Manslaughter for the death of Bartholomew.
He said that he will be pushing for a “speedy trial” because of the already long delay in the legal proceedings which commenced in January 2013.
“The delay has been so long…it has been a long time and I think it’s in the public interest that there is no further delay in the matter”, he told our News Desk.
“Based on the amount of time that has already passed we will certainly press for a speedy trial”, he added.
DPP Nelson expressed optimism that the matter would be put before the High Court in the January 2018 criminal assizes.
The delay in the Oscar Bartholomew matter was due to a high court ruling in 2013 for a Coroner’s Inquest to be held at the St. David’s Magistrate Court before District Coroner Magistrate Teddy St. Louis to determine who should be held culpable for the death of the naturalised Canadian citizen.
The Inquest ended just after 5:30 p.m. last week Friday when the Coroner’s Jury returned a verdict that found four of the five officers in question liable to be charged with Manslaughter for Bartholomew’s death.
The 6-member jury panel exonerated 32-year old Police Constable 748 Kenton Hazzard from the charge.
The officers who will go before the high court on trial are Rural Constable Wendell Sylvester,36, Police Constables 237 Rudy Felix, 29, 675 Shaun Garness, 41, and retired Police Constable 649 Edward Gibson,63.
The officers listened quietly as the verdict was handed down and shortly afterwards were taken into custody at the St. David’s Police Station.
There was a flurry of activities to make arrangement for bail which was granted to them in the sum of $20, 000 each, with one surety.
Police sources told THE NEW TODAY that the officers will once more be suspended from active duties and put on half month’s pay.
DPP Nelson had initially charged the officers with Manslaughter for Bartholomew’s death but a high court judge overturned the ruling and ordered that a Coroner’s inquest should have been commissioned before the Manslaughter charge was laid.
According to the DPP, who had appealed the decision, which the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal reversed and ruled in his favour for the charges to be reinstated against the five officers, this process would have largely contributed to the six-year delay in having the matter dealt with in the high court.
Nelson expressed the view that while lawyers are entitled to take whatever steps deemed appropriate to defend their client(s), in his view “the outcome (of the Coroner’s inquest) is a foregone conclusion.”
He said, “it was most unfortunate that the judge who heard the police officers judicial review application agreed with them when it was my view that the state, notwithstanding the Coroner’s law, had the power to proceed with the preliminary inquiry”.
He added that “the legal maneuvering consumed a lot of time and resulted in the delay”.
The DPP, who is not constrained to maintain the Manslaughter verdict against the officers, is now waiting on the written dispositions, which are expected to be filed by the Coroner with the Registrar of the Supreme Court and copied to his office, before proceeding with the indictment against the officers.
The law does not provide for a Coroner’s verdict to be appealed.
However, the defense attorneys for the four officers have the option to apply for another judicial review.
At the time of his death, Bartholomew, who grew up in the small village of La Tante in St. David’s and later became a naturalised Canadian citizen, was on island vacationing with his wife.
He was arrested and taken into police custody on December 26, 2011 (Boxing Day), after bear hugging a plain clothes female police officer who he allegedly mistook for a longtime friend.
He died in hospital days after receiving a fatal beating by police officers inside the St. David’s Police Station.
The autopsy report showed that he had sustained more than 40 injuries, including multiple skull fractures and had choked on his vomit after receiving blunt force trauma to the skull.
The report also spoke of blunt force trauma to Bartholomew’s chest and hemorrhaging in both lungs, especially on his right side.