Jermaine Wilkinson killing
Seven years on, policeman still to face trial
By Andre Haynes
Stabroek News
December 28, 2003

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More than seven years on, the ex-policeman charged with killing Jermaine Wilkinson is still free, awaiting his trial.

The depositions from the Preliminary Inquiry (PI), after which Robert Beresford was committed to stand trial for manslaughter, are still to be forwarded to the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," says Heston Boswick, Chairman of the Justice For Jermaine Committee, an organisation that has been trying to bring an end to unlawful extra-judicial killings, since 20-year-old Wilkinson's death.

Boswick says such delays in the judicial system are typical of cases where policemen have been implicated, and give the impression that there can be no justice for the victims.

On Wednesday May 22, 1996, Wilkinson died on a hospital bed, nearly five hours after he was allegedly shot by Beresford, a member of a police Impact Patrol, who apprehended him in Albouystown.

After two days and street protests by residents of Albouystown, Beresford was charged with manslaughter. He was placed on $40,000 bail pending the outcome of the PI into the charges.

In September that year, K. Juman Yassin, the then chief magistrate, committed him to stand trial for murder, reasoning that the evidence led during the PI substantiated the capital charge. The magistrate's committal order was immediately challenged, while Beresford was admitted as a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital, suffering from an undisclosed illness.

The committal order was later quashed by a High Court judge who placed the policeman on $150,000 bail, pending the start of his trial.

Now, seven years later, the trial is yet to begin and the original depositions cannot be located.

In July this year, the law firm representing the committee wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, inquiring about the likely commencement of the trial. In a letter dated July 3, Roxanne George, deputy director, responded:

"Re: State v. Robert Beresford (Manslaughter) C.J.No. 8281/96

Please be advised that the depositions for the above mentioned matter have never been received by the Chambers."

The records of the registry of the Georgetown Magis-trate's Court show that the original depositions were sent to the Supreme Court on September 19, 1996. Duplicates of the depositions were returned to the registry on February 13, the next year.

It is the procedure for the trial statements to be typed from the original depositions and then forwarded to the Supreme Court and the Director of Public Prosecu-tions.

Stabroek News sought a comment from Supreme Court Registrar, Sita Ramlall, but she was said to be unavailable.

Meanwhile, coupled with similar experiences, the delay in the start of Beresford trial has left Boswick sceptical about the judiciary and justice in Guyana.

He believes the system has been defeated by empty charges that are filed only for the sake of placating the public outcry that follows every unlawful killing, rather than in the general interest of justice. According to Boswick, the Albouystown community, which staged demonstrations around the city in outrage after the killing, still grieves for Wilkinson.

"It is something that nobody can forget," he says, describing the general feeling in the community as one of betrayal.

"The depositions were never typed, much less shown to the DPP!" he exclaimed.