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Lawyer knocks cops treatment of 2 boys on murder charge

By Andre Bagoo Saturday, December 28 2013

TWO BOYS, ages 14 and 17, yesterday appeared in court charged with the murder of 25-year-old Kendall Thomas who was kidnapped from a maxi-taxi along the Priority Bus Route on December 11 during a robbery.

The boys appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayres-Caesar at the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistrates’ Court after spending 16 days in police custody.

They further answered charges of taking and carrying away a body contrary to common-law; and two separate counts of armed robbery.

They were remanded to the Youth Training Centre, Arouca.

The courtroom was ordered cleared by the magistrate at 12.49 pm as the two boys entered the prisoners’ dock. Family members were allowed to stay in the courtroom, including the mother of the 14-year-old and a sister of the 17-year-old.

The court heard allegations, made by the boys’ Legal Aid lawyer Fareed Ali, that they had been kept in custody without notice to the Legal Aid Authority and that the17-year-old had been beaten and subject to physical and verbal abuse by police officers.

Both are charged with murdering Thomas sometime between December 10 and December 13 at Beetham Gardens, Laventille. They are also charged with taking and carrying away the body of Thomas against his will on December 11 at the Priority Bus Route.

A third charge alleges that they, armed with a firearm and together with other persons, robbed Shena Charles of a $1,000 gold chain. A fourth charge alleges they robbed Celine Lyons of a gold chain and pendant together worth $4,000. The charges were laid by Sgt Harry.

The 14-year-old, of Beetham Gardens, stood in the dock with his left arm in a sling wearing a yellow shirt and jeans. At times, he stared about the court-room. The 17-year-old, of Las Cuevas, stood wearing a white shirt and stone-coloured jeans. He paid close attention to what was being said to the magistrate by police officers, at times nodding disapproval of an account of events after his arrest.

The mother of the 14-year-old, a WASA employee, was allowed to stand alongside her son in the dock. Her body language appeared tense, but at one stage she held on to his shoulder. A sister of the 17-year-old was allowed to stand behind him at the prisoners’ dock. None of the children can be named in accordance with law.

Ali criticised what he said was a failure on the part of the police to comply with statutory provisions which hold that persons under suspicion of murder – as well as minors – must have a lawyer present before the matter is pursued by police. He said the children were in various forms of police custody from since December 11, yet he was only called in as the Legal Aid duty officer on December 15.

“Whenever a minor is brought to a police station, the senior officer ought to inform Legal Aid that a minor is in custody,” Ali said. “This means that the police officers did not inform Legal Aid and they have a responsibility to do that. These two persons would not have had, failing a call, access to a lawyer. Without access to an attorney that is a deprivation.”

The 14-year-old allegedly sustained a broken arm during the incidents of December 11. There were no claims from Ali that the injury was related to alleged police brutality. However, in relation to the 17-year-old, Ali said his client alleged police abuse.

Ali alleged police hit the 17-year-old on his buttocks and behind the knees. He said one officer told the child, while en route to the bathroom unhandcuffed, “I want you to run and I will shoot and kill you.” He said the child was choked, cuffed, hit with a gun, driven to El Soccorro and interrogated under duress, hit on the back of the head. He also said the 17-year-old was only allowed to bathe for three of the 16 days in custody. When sent to the Besson Street Police Station the child was not immediately taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital upon reporting his injuries to officers there.

Court prosecutor Kelson Pope said the police had been informed by the child that he was 18- years-old. The State also criticised Ali for raising the allegations of abuse at this stage in the proceedings, accusing the lawyer of “leading evidence from the bar.”

“This is not the place and time for this,” the police prosecutor said. He said none of the allegations were subject to tests such as cross-examination and they were not made while under oath. He did not deny the allegations. Ali requested of the prosecution disclosure of: any interview notes, statements, forms, station diary extracts and other documents related to the case.

The magistrate adjourned the case to January 21.

Thomas, of Carenage, was killed on December 11, when he was pulled out of a maxi taxi along the PBR. Police reported a maxi taxi with eight passengers was proceeding west along the PBR to City Gate, Port-of-Spain, from Arima, when one of the passengers pressed the bell for the vehicle to stop so he could get off near 19th Street, Beetham Gardens.

As the maxi taxi came to a stop, three gunmen entered the maxi taxi and announced a hold-up. It is believed that Thomas resisted, was dragged out of the vehicle by the gunmen and forced to walk with them into Beetham Gardens. Thomas’ body was found in river at Beetham Gardens on December 12.

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