Today we touch on a most vexatious affair.
And in the first instance, are obliged to state that we agree totally with the outrage expressed by the September 3rd Foundation over Tuesday’s killing of Guyanese national, Brenda Belle, and the contention that the system failed her.
Our confirmed information on this matter is that Belle, prior to her unfortunate slaying, was stabbed and subsequently detained at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. It is also to our knowledge that a report was made on the matter and the identity of her attacker was made known to the Royal Barbados Police Force.
We are informed that the police were awaiting a medical report on the matter before taking action. If this is untrue and they were not waiting on a medical report, then they should state what they were waiting on since Belle was killed before any decisive action was taken after her hospitalisation and release.
We have spoken to at least two retired senior members of the Royal Barbados Police Force and one long-standing attorney-at-law with respect to procedure following Belle’s initial report to the authorities and they have provided rather interesting information.†There is a fallacy being perpetuated in the corridors of the police force, and among the naive and uninitiated, that officers must wait, perhaps ad infinitum, until a victim of a wounding or grievous bodily harm offence returns to them with a medical report form to take action.
It is so ludicrous a contention that when examined rationally the folly of it becomes self evident and not deserving of debate.
The medical report form is evidentiary and will provide documented details of the degree of injury and also assist police in the type of charge that they proffer against an accused. In most, if not all cases, the examining doctor who provided the medical report is still required at some later date to give evidence in the matter.
But for any police officer to suggest that no action can be taken before a medical report is in his or her hands is to suggest that a bleeding, battered body on a hospital bed that has verbally communicated the circumstances of his or her affliction counts for nothing.
Again, we stress, and challenge members of the policing fraternity, that to suggest that they are rendered inactive in the absence of a medical report is unqualified nonsense. In cases of rape, accused persons are charged long before the results of test results of swabs taken from victims are obtained by the police. Often accused persons are charged for rape on the mere verbal complaint of the alleged victim and in the absence of any physical or medical evidence.
We are informed that in Belle’s initial circumstances, perpetrators could have been charged with offences of either wounding with intent or grievous bodily harm with intent, and if later the degree of injury was not as severe as earlier contemplated, the charges could be reduced at the Magistrate’s Court to simple wounding or grievous bodily harm.
We are also informed, that depending on the severity of the injury, and words spoken at the time of the infliction of the injury, that even a charge of attempted murder could be brought against the perpetrator. Medical reports could subsequently be obtained after the necessary action of apprehending the suspect was completed.
And how have we arrived at these pronouncements? There are documented cases of persons being charged for offences ranging from attempted murder to wounding with intent where medical reports were obtained post charge. We will not publish the names obtained of those accused who were brought to justice in such circumstances because they have paid their debt to society and do not deserve to be in the spotlight again due to†the failures of others.
We say that it is lazy, negligent policing in cases with life-threatening circumstances such as Belle’s to allow a suspect to remain at large pending the receipt of a medical report form on the victim. The potential danger which Belle faced should have been obvious to those trained in the profession.
Some years ago an accused, while in the dock at the Magistrate Court, swore he would take the life of his estranged male lover. Our information and records do not show that any action was taken specifically on that threat by either the court or the Royal Barbados Police Force. Months later the threat was carried out in the most brutal fashion.
Belle’s case went beyond a verbal threat;†she was stabbed and hospitalised.
One can only speculate whether she would still be alive if assertive action was initially taken. Now her killer will be apprehended and charged and that now irrelevant medical report will be replaced by a post mortem report. And the accused will not be allowed to roam the streets pending the receipt of that post mortem report by the Royal Barbados Police Force.
We expect the wagons to circle but heads should roll for this, and not only that of Belle’s attacker. †††