The Grenada government could be forced to dole out millions in compensation for the police killing of Grenadian-born naturalized Canadian citizen, Oscar Bartholomew following an incident at the St David Police Station in late December 2011.
Government is currently awaiting a report from the office of the Attorney General in order to determine its next course of action after a Judge ruled that the State is financially liable in the death of Bartholomew who is originally from the village of La Tante in St. David.
The 39-year old native was on the island vacationing with his Canadian wife when he was severely beaten while in custody at the St David Police Station and later died at the St. George’s General Hospital.
A civil suit for wrongful death was filed by Attorney-at-law Derek Sylvester, on behalf of Bartholomew’s estate and last week Thursday an oral judgement was delivered by Justice Wynante Adrien Roberts.
The Dominica-born female high court judge determined that the police officers and government are “vicariously liable” based on evidence and witness testimony presented in the case.
Economic Development Minister Oliver Joseph said Tuesday that government respects all court rulings and await communication from the Attorney General before deciding on how to respond to the judgement against the State.
Joseph is the elected Member of Parliament for the St. David constituency where Bartholomew was born.
One of the five police officers implicated in the death, Rudy Felix, who was the diarist on duty at the time of the alleged beating of Bartholomew in a holding cell at the station, was discharged from any financial responsibility in the death.
A written judgement is expected shortly and the Judge has ordered that the process move into the assessment phase, to determine the monetary compensation to be awarded to the estate of Bartholomew.
The assessment will take into consideration the extent of pain and suffering as well as Bartholomew’s earnings, had he lived to retirement age.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the damages could run into millions of dollars for Bartholomew who worked as a carpenter in Canada when he died.
Medical evidence showed that Bartholomew was rendered unconscious and fell into a coma after the police beating.
There was also evidence that he received severe blows to the head even while unconscious in the cell.
The 2013 Coroner’s Inquest had discharged police officer 748 Kenton Hazard, while the other four, 675 Shaun Garness, 649 Edward Gibson, Rural Constable Wendell Sylvester and 237 Rudy Felix were indicted to face manslaughter charges.
However, the Judge in the civil case held Hazard liable for the death of Bartholomew and he along with Gibson, Sylvester and Garness will have to pay personal damages, according to the High Court judgement.
It was on Boxing Day in 2011 that Bartholomew and his wife stopped at Petit Esperance so his wife could go to the bathroom at the St. David’s Police Station.
Bartholomew reportedly mistook a female police officer for an old friend and gave her a vigorous hug before allegedly realising his mistake.\
Police officers who witnessed the event viewed the hug as an assault against an officer and arrested Bartholomew.
The wife emerged from the bathroom to hear her husband screaming inside the building.
The next time Bartholomew’s wife saw her husband, he was being carried out on a stretcher and then taken to the hospital where he died amidst a national uproar after news circulated throughout the island about the brutal beating incident inside the police station.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Anslem Clouden has told THE NEW TODAY that he intends to make a move to have the manslaughter charge against police officer Felix dismissed in the Bartholomew case.
Clouden said that based on the civil judgement which released Felix from financial liability in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Bartholomew’s estate, he will make representation to have the criminal charge against his client quashed.
The attorney explained that there is a stage in criminal proceedings where if the evidence is tenuous and weak, a no-case submission can be made.
“Felix is freed from any financial liability toward the estate of Oscar Bartholomew. He had not participated and we had maintained that throughout, in what transpired at the police station.
“The next step would be an approach to the Director of Public Prosecutions, having regard to the findings of the Court that Felix is not civilly liable.
“We are going to make representation at the appropriate time to have Felix discharged from criminal responsibility, based on the evidence that was adduced during the civil trial.”
Felix was the diarist on duty on December 26, 2011 when Bartholomew was taken into custody by police after he embraced a female police officer.
The police officer has maintained that he remained at the duty desk at the police station and had not entered the cell at any time during the alleged beating of Bartholomew.
Clouden said because they have not yet started the criminal trial there will be an opportunity, as set out in the law, where he can seek to have his client freed from prosecution for manslaughter.
“If there is insufficient evidence, or if the evidence is so weak, that no Jury, properly directed, could convict, then at the stage of a no-case submission, he ought to be freed.
Clouden could not say when the criminal trial would commence since difficult court conditions and a scarcity of Judges have been delaying criminal trials in the Supreme Court.
Director of Public Prosecution Christopher Nelson was not immediately available for comment.
However, other legal sources have said that because civil proceedings are held to a lesser standard of proof than criminal proceedings, one cannot say for sure that Felix would be discharged from a Jury trial.