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Attorney-at-law, Eusi Anderson, on behalf of 17-year-old Jahiem Peters wrote acting Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken and the Attorney General. In a letter to Hicken, dated 11th July, which could be seen below, Anderson on behalf of his client informed that the treatment meted out to him at the Vigilance Police Station “is cruel, inhumane and barbaric.”
On Sunday 10th July Peters suffered burns while in police custody at the Vigilance Police Station and has been hospitalised with burns to his left side ribs area and hand. Peters is demanding:-
1) the immediate removal of the police guard at his bedside at the Georgetown Hospital and the restoration of unfettered access to his body and person by medical personnel and family members;
2) the payment of $75 Million in lieu of civil proceedings for torture and brutality at the hands of the police. The offer expires on 25th July, but Peters said any reasonable counteroffer is welcome. However, if nothing is heard by the stated date civil proceedings sans notice is the imperative course;
3) a public apology to Peters and his family by the acting Commissioner and ranks responsible for the injuries for the manner in which he was treated and threatened.
The teenager blames the police for his injury. He said he was light afire by a rank he named, he took off his jersey, ran outside, and threw it in water; and was advised by the policeman to admit to burning himself when the ambulance came and was beaten to repeat that story.
The police, in a statement, contradicted Peter’s story. They said “the teenager was in custody and alone in the lockups [when] screams were heard coming from the lockups and when a rank made checks, he observed the jersey that the teenager was wearing was on fire. The EMT from Melanie Fire Station was summoned and [the teenager] was treated.”
The police claimed the teenager, “was questioned and related to [them] that he was given a lighter by another person who was in custody (on the bench), and he lit same and was playing with it and his jersey caught afire.” The police also said statements were taken from persons who were at the station and witnessed when the incident occurred.
However, two ranks at the Vigilance Police Station were placed under close arrest, and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is “investigating the matter,” the Police said in its statement.
Standard international policing expects persons held by the police should have their safety and security guaranteed while under the protection of the police. Security and safety should transcend self-harm and harm from others. It is basic protocol for the police in securing their own safety that it requires persons held in custody to be frisked for weapons or implements that could cause harm to themselves and others. And If indeed the teenager was in possession of a lighter, it was the police’s responsibility to remove it from his person. Several allegations of inmates setting various detention centres afire, notably the Lusignan lock up and Camp Street prison, should have served as warning.