The soldier accused of leaving duty without reasonable excuse or permission on March 14, 2021, told a court martial on Monday he had to make a decision that day after working for seven hours without a lunch break.
Opting to make a sworn statement from the witness stand and be subjected to cross-examination on conclusion of the prosecution’s case, Private Raheem Reeves testified that having been on his feet from morning to evening sanitizing, non-stop, buses that transported COVID-19 patients, removing garbage and cleaning vomit from them, he became frustrated, angry and sick from not eating.
Private Reeves said he even felt faint and that his real excuse for leaving the Barbados Defence Force’s (BDF) St Ann’s Fort Headquarters that day to go home to eat was because he felt sick.
However, under cross examination by prosecutor Captain Neville Corbin, the accused admitted that he had not been given permission by any officer to leave camp.
He told the court martial that when he arrived on duty on March 14 he signed in, but when he left that day, one of his partners who was with him went ahead and signed out for him so he did not have any interaction with the “gateman”.
Private Reeves also testified that normally when he was unable to bring his lunch to work or have somebody drop it off, he would get something to eat from the canteen or the mini-mart on the compound.
But according to him, the person who would normally drop off his food was unavailable that day, the canteen was under renovation and the mini-mart was closed because it was a Sunday.
He said that prior to March 14, he had made two specific “welfare” requests to the BDF authorities regarding his duties. One, was that he be allowed to report for work at 9 a.m. so he could deal with the needs of his children and the other was for him to go home for lunch because he did not trust the army and therefore could not eat their food.
Private Reeves told the court martial that while his request to report for duty at 9 a.m. was granted, the other was constantly turned down.
Under further cross-examination by the prosecutor, the soldier admitted that on the day in question, he did not inform any officer about how he was feeling due to a lack of sustenance and needing a break because he expected to be rejected as on previous occasions.
When his attorney Michael Lashley, Q.C. questioned him, Private Reeves said when he returned to base after having a meal, he felt energized and replenished and ready to continue to work.
Describing himself as a outcast and a target within the army, the accused, in response to Lashley claimed that corporals and lance corporals would be granted leave passes and officers would say they were stepping out.
Identifying his sanitization job as dangerous, he testified that he did not consider the face mask, gloves and health gown sufficient and efficient enough to deal with vehicles that had to be scrubbed and which posed the possibility of infection.
Earlier, the court ruled that there were no material procedural irregularities in how a no-case submission made by Lashley was reflected in a ruling by president of the tribunal Lieutenant Commander John Mapp.
The senior attorney argued today that his no-case submission should not have been allowed to be heard in the presence of the president and the rest of the panel for fear of his client’s matter being prejudiced.
He contended that as obtains in the High Court where no-case submissions are done in the absence of the jury, only the Judge Advocate, Principal Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney should have sat alone in this case.
However, Judge Advocate Delaney rejected Lashley’s argument pointing out that the Defence Act takes her out of the picture and supports the panel as the entity to hear the no-case submission.
When the trial resumes Tuesday at 9 a.m., Lieutenant Coast Guard Sena Price will be called as a defence witness.