PNC/R slams judge's ruling overturning Shafeek verdict
Stabroek News
February 5, 2002

The verdict delivered by the coroner's jury at the conclusion of the Mohammed Shafeek inquest, deeming the police responsible for Shafeek's demise, was nullified after Justice B.S. Roy, before whom the matter was taken, upheld arguments by attorney Sanjeev Datadin, representing the interest of the police.

This ruling was condemned by the PNC REFORM (PNC/R) leader, Desmond Hoyte, at a press conference held last Thursday to denounce police brutality.

Shafeek, a former resident of Canal Number One had been arrested during the early hours of September 2, 2000 in the vicinity of the Stabroek Market, and died between the time of his arrest and the following day. At the time, a police press release had related that the 47-year-old fisherman's battered body, had been found at about 2030 hrs in the Brickdam lockups, where he had been held after being taken into custody for loitering while under the influence of alcohol.

Subsequent to a sustained public outcry and the attainment of an order of mandamus from the High Court, which had been applied for by attorney-at-law Basil Williams, representing the deceased's family, a coroner's inquest into Shafeek's death had been conducted.

On November 27, 2001, the three-member coroner's jury determined - after a brief deliberation, which lasted approximately seven minutes - that the police were responsible for Shafeek's death. Magistrate Cecil Sullivan, who had presided over the inquest, had told Stabroek News that the jury had found that Shafeek had been beaten by a lance corporal and his associates.

However, Datadin had described the findings of the jury as surprising against the weight of the evidence presented in court. He had told this newspaper that since the findings had been the result of an inquest, the Attorney General would be unable to appeal the matter but that a writ of certiorari could be applied for in the High Court allowing for a judge to hear arguments.

Datadin filed an application for the said writ on December 10, 2001 and obtained an order nisi, copies of which were served on the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the coroner. Datadin delivered interim arguments before Roy to the effect that the verdict of the coroner's jury had been preposterous and that they had failed to take into account relevant considerations.

He told Stabroek News last week that the jury's findings had been contrary to evidence and unreasonable, further, that the coroner did not follow the Coroner's Act in specific material ways. Asked to expand, the lawyer said that the coroner had failed to sum up the details of the case to the jury and had failed to guide the jury on issues of the law.

He emphasised that he was not questioning the findings, but the procedure used to arrive at the final conclusion.

"I was under no obligation, legal or otherwise, to inform Basil Williams of these proceedings," Datadin remarked. "Those who needed to be alerted were given notice."