Magistrates reluctant to conduct inquests -Gajraj
Stabroek News
July 11, 2001

Magistrates' reluctance to take cases in which the police had shot suspects, has been given as one of the reasons why few inquests into these deaths were conducted.

Speaking to the media at the GTV 11 studios on Monday, Home Minister, Ronald Gajraj, surmised that magistrates' refusal to take these cases were for reasons best known to themselves. He said that he had made representation to former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Cecil Kennard, for a magistrate to be dedicated to conducting coroner's inquests, but one was still to be appointed.

Answering a related question on the absence of ambulances and a doctor to examine the bodies of persons killed by the Target Special Squad, Gajraj said that he would not recommend that an ambulance should be among the vehicles to be acquired by the police. He said that the presence of an ambulance in the vehicle convoy of the Target Special Squad could open it to the criticism that they are going into the operation predisposed to killing their targets rather than their surrender. However, he added that he was not advocating that the police should not have an ambulance.

Gajraj gave the assurance that investigations into the recent incidents of crime were not being swept under the carpet.

He said that the investigation into the shooting of Donna McKinnon was still in progress. Gajraj later told Stabroek News that moves to bring in a forensic pathologist had been put on hold because of the resistance of her relatives to her body being exhumed. However, he said that the government would still be willing even now to bring in the pathologist if his visit would materially assist the investigation. He could not provide specific details about any of the investigations.

Deputy Commissioner Floyd McDonald who was also at the press conference along with Police Commissioner, Laurie Lewis, and Traffic Chief Superintendent Fred Wilson, said that one of the shotguns among the arsenal recovered from the Toucan Suites after notorious bandit Linden London was killed was returned to the owner from whom it was stolen. He said too that enquiries were still being done into the origin of the other weapons as their numbers had been filed off.

About the causes of the fires which destroyed a number of businesses on Regent and Camp streets on April 9, the GRL building on Water Street, the MMA head office at Onverwagt, and the Park Hotel, Gajraj said that the lack of facilities had prevented a definitive determination as to their causes. However, McDonald said that the police had concluded its investigations into the Park Hotel fire and submitted the findings to the insurance companies. He referred inquiries as to the content of its report to the insurance companies, explaining that the police did not want to be caught up in the civil action brought by the owners of the Park Hotel.