A Grenadian lawyer wants to know why it has taken police here eight months and counting to investigate charges that two of his compatriots had stolen a mobile phone from a store owner in Bridgetown.
Ruggles Ferguson, who represents the Grenadian family in question, is wondering if something is amiss, considering the fact that the Gilbert family had accused members of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) of bullying and humiliating them last October over a false accusation of stealing the mobile phone, and had threatened a lawsuit.
Although the incident dates back to October 2016, it was not made public until January this year, when sisters Tamika and Lynell Gilbert gave a harrowing account of their experience at a police station here.
After describing to the media how they and a cousin were stripped searched and virtually stripped of their dignity by the officers who shouted at them, insulted them, prevented them from speaking to other family members, brought them water three hours after they had made a request, and had one sister use the toilet with the door opened and an officer standing guard, the RBPF said it had launched an investigation into the allegations.
However, Deputy Commissioner of Police Oral Williams told Barbados TODAY the probe was still continuing as lawmen were yet to determine if the visiting young women had indeed stolen the phone.
“The matter stemmed from the alleged theft of a cell phone so the investigator has to go back then to the criminal matter then move forward because if the investigators conclude that there is enough grounds for criminal proceedings then it could be said that officers were justified in dealing with it the way they allegedly did,” Williams said yesterday.
“So our investigation firstly deals with criminal matters, then the allegations against the police.”
This did not sit well with Ferguson, who made it clear he was not amused by the delay.
“I suppose that will be their story because they need to find a reason. The question is, how could they be investigating the theft of a cell phone for so long? That is quite a while to be investigating a cell phone theft,” he said.
Ferguson had told Barbados TODAY in early February that a lawsuit was imminent, insisting at the time that he did not intend to back down until there was a satisfactory resolution.
Today he said it had taken much longer than intended due to the high volume of work facing the team of Caribbean lawyers working on the case, but the family and the legal team were committed to the pursuit of justice.
“I know we are behind time but the plan was to have it done for the end of this month, but it doesn’t seem like we would meet that deadline. There are so many things that are happening over the place and you know how it is when everybody has to do a piece at a time and in terms of coordinating because we all have very high court schedules. I am in court every single day. However the matter has been delayed too long for my comfort, but we have a draft already,” Ferguson said.
The Gilbert sisters, along with their mother, father and cousin, were here to renew their American visas and, having got through early, they had decided to visit the capital for some shopping and to enjoy each other’s company, Tamika had said.
The trip became a nightmare after a store owner accused the young women of stealing her mobile phone.
Confident of their innocence, they offered to have their bags searched by the store owner, who turned down the offer and said she would check recordings from security cameras.
Instead, “an excessive amount of police officers showed up at the scene” and during a heated exchange with the store owner, they were threatened with arrest.
They were all taken to the police station and what happened there brought her to tears, Tamika had told Barbados TODAY.
“They [the police] behave like they don’t want us to come, like we are not tourists. The police station that we went to, I was trying real hard to find an officer who was nice that day. And if that is how they are treating us as visitors – and they knew we are not from Barbados – that’s not good for the country at all,” she said, adding: “We have never taken a family trip when all four of us went out together, so Barbados will be a memorable experience for our family.”