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28 deaths - but still no inquests

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel said yesterday the lack of inquests into police-involved killings and in-custody deaths over a number of years is “distressing” and “unacceptable” and his administration will deal with the matter aggressively.

He said he will meet officials of his office and Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez to determine whether administrative or legislative fixes are necessary to address the problem.

He revealed there are about 28 police-related deaths that require an inquest, most of which are “just there”, languishing in the system.

While families often have their own thoughts about why their loved one was killed by police, it falls to the Coroner’s Court to ascertain the facts of each incident.

Some lawyers believe uncertainty around inquests go beyond slow judicial administration and raises human rights concerns as well.

“I received a preliminary report that indicates there are around about 28 outstanding coroner’s inquests into police-related deaths and I was distressed to see that roughly, possibly four of them are only being proceeded with,” Mr Bethel said following yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

“The rest are just there. I find that to be an unacceptable situation. I’ve already called on my officials to have a meeting this week to begin to address it to determine what has to be done, but it’s simply unacceptable that there should be 28 as yet unresolved matters that must attract and have a coroner’s inquest in order to bring closure as a matter of law; police-related deaths, in-custody deaths etc.

“We want to have this dealt with expeditiously. So I want to have meetings with my officials and thereafter have some meetings with the coroner and then we look at what has to be done either administratively or legislatively to correct the situation as soon as possible.”

Mr Bethel could not say how far back the outstanding matters go.

However, police-involved deaths before 2011 do not automatically trigger an inquest because they happened before the Coroner’s Act came into force. Some lawyers say relief may be sought from the Supreme Court to get the coroner to hold an inquest into such matters.  

“I got a listing of case names and their status in terms of whether they have been proceeded with,” Mr Bethel said. “The three or four that I saw have been adjourned until next year and the rest are just sitting there. We have to at least get those cases dealt with expeditiously.”

In an interview Monday, attorney Romona Farquharson-Seymour blamed the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) and the Office of the Attorney General for the inefficiencies at the court in such matters.

She said those institutions take an “inordinate” amount of time sending their files to the Coroner’s Court.

“The AG’s Office,” she said, “marshals many of the matters. Police deal with interviews, the AG’s Office usually sends the file on to the Coroner’s Court and that’s where the delay arises.”

She said: “If they can get VBIs together, they can get these together. They have enough officers for them to get it done. We have over 100 murders a year. At least 70 percent of the time VBIs are ready in three to six months and it involves the same process as what is needed in police shooting matters. In fact, it’s less arduous because you’re not levying any charges. It’s just a pathologist report, witness statements, etc.”

According to The Tribune’s records, 11 people have died in police-related shootings this year. 

Comments

TalRussell 6 years, 3 months ago

Comrades, I'll tell you what is equally distressing and unacceptable is Attorney General Carl Bethel, doesn't lack a clear path when it comes to moving a bill on the floor of the People's House of Assembly to automatically trigger inquests into police-involved killings and in-custody deaths...... and since his red shirts government commands the overwhelming majority MP's in the House- the bill's passing would be a certainty, This red shirts majority government knows exactly how quickly pass bills beneficial to the elite business class and foreigners that pumped monies into their successful 2017 general election war chest,,,, It's time red shirts MP's does pass at least one bill beneficial to the 'forgotten' working poor and near poor citizen's. Policeman's should not know they cab shoot people and no questions will be asked... but again isn't this the same red shirts cabinet that come 2018 going start charging the poor and near poor people's - fees of $50 to $700 (unapproved by the House) to collect they loved-ones bodies from the PMH's morgue - before tossing them into back their station wagons?

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John 6 years, 3 months ago

Not only are there 28 deaths but there are also persons who were taken into custody in good health and came out beaten to a pulp. Many suffered kidney damage and other injuries that left them with permanent medical problems. Many or most were young males and some were innocent. And they received no compensation from the police or the government. Some cannot work and have become a life long burden to their families. And much to his credit, these type beatings diminished under the former commissioner of police. Then one must wonder how less than a handful of criminal gang leaders were responsible for at least half the murders that were occurring over the past several years. They went seemingly undetected and unfazed by the police. Executing or causing young men to be executed even under the high noon sun. And only after one or two of them were themselves murdered and attempts made on the lives of others and one or two having their lives threatened that the killings come under control. And with the police finally putting heat on other gang members and causing them to disband is the country experiencing the lowest number of murders in a two month period after probably in five years. And this is why the recent spike in police involved killings is troubling and needs full investigations and to be put in check as quickly as possible.

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John 6 years, 3 months ago

That begs the question ‘Have some gang members penetrated the police force or other government military agencies?’

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