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Faux outrage

Prominent voices should urge one standard for all under law
  • Philip Brave Davis.

  • Neil Ellis.

  • Kenred Dorsett was arraigned on July 13.

  • Frank Smith was arraigned on July 21.

  • Shane Gibson was arraigned on August 3.

CANDIA DAMES
Managing Editor
candia@nasguard.com

Published: Aug 09, 2017

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Those who have sounded the alarm over the treatment of former PLP Minister Shane Gibson by police last week and the treatment of other PLPs charged in court recently ought to be careful that they do not send disturbing signals that certain suspects should be handled differently when they go before the police and the courts.

At the same time, police ought to ensure that they use proper discretion when injured suspects are in custody.

Gibson has a foot injury, which was obvious when he was taken to court on Thursday.

There is a need for the fair treatment of all before the courts — rich man, poor man, politician and everyone else.

While it is true that former parliamentarians who find themselves before the courts deserve to be treated humanely, those authority figures who have raised outrage over Gibson being arraigned without the use of his crutches should also find their voices when it relates to common people and how they are treated.

The statements from Davis and the one from Gibson’s pastor, Bishop Neil Ellis, to his congregants have fed the view that certain suspects ought to be subjected to a different set of rules as they relate to police procedure and treatment under the law.

Davis has been complaining about the manner in which the prominent PLPs accused of extortion and bribery have been treated.

His concern has been not just how Gibson was treated — by being handcuffed and denied the use of his crutches — but also the manner in which police handled former parliamentarians Kenred Dorsett and Frank Smith, who were recently charged with bribery and extortion in separate matters.

Davis believes there was no need to handcuff them, as they were being charged with non-violent offenses.

He noted in a July 18 letter to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis that “Ken Dorsett was handcuffed when there was absolutely no basis for considering him a flight risk”.

If the Progressive Liberal Party and others were complaining regularly about how common people are arraigned, the argument of Gibson’s supposed mistreatment and the treatment of Dorsett and Smith at the hands of officers might carry some weight.

Ellis’ statement to his congregants, which was widely circulated on Sunday, spoke of the “inhumanity” toward Gibson.

Ellis said, “Based on the totality of the circumstances, including the nature of the charges, the presumption of innocence and Mr. Gibson’s long-standing service to multiple sectors of our community and the nation itself, I have struggled mightily to understand what risk was being protected against that required the measure of inhumanity shown to Mr. Gibson.”

Ellis said Gibson was made to abandon his crutches in order to be handcuffed behind his back.

“Observers report and video affirms that he limped along the street and literally hopped up the steps to the level of the court,” he said.

Police did not say why Gibson did not have his crutches when he was being arraigned.

One senior officer only insisted to us that police followed procedure in how they treated the former minister.

The day before, a Nassau Guardian reporter watched Gibson walk into the Central Detective Unit without the aid of crutches. There were no cameras present.

His attorney, Anthony McKinney, said Gibson suffered an injury while on a boating trip.

Davis said he was advised that Gibson was recovering from surgery and his crutches were medically ordered.

We do not know whether Gibson had surgery.

When he arrived at the Nassau Street Police Station before the arraignment, he had use of his crutches.

He also used them after the arraignment.

His bail hearing was immediately held, and he was filmed using his crutches.

In these matters, police use their discretion.

But there ought not be an appearance that certain suspects are being handled differently.

Gibson should have been treated no worse and no better than any other suspect in his position.

Humane treatment should be reserved for all.

 

Hypocrisy

Ever since the first arrest of Dorsett, the former environment minister, on July 13, Davis has been alleging abusive treatment on the part of the police.

He even expressed outrage that police had informed the media about the arraignment, seeking to excite the PLP’s narrow base, and deepen divisions among Bahamians.

What he did not say to the base is that the police inform the media almost daily about arraignments.

As we noted only recently, it was the police who informed the media when then FNM Senator John Bostwick was charged in court in 2014.

It was the police who informed the media when former BEC board member and former FNM candidate Fred Ramsey was charged in a bribery case in 2015.

They were both handcuffed.

Ramsey, a man his 70s, was not viewed as a flight risk.

Bostwick, in his 40s, was also not viewed as a flight risk.

Of course, Davis, the then deputy prime minister, took no issue.

He had no outrage over the fact that these men, who were also not considered flight risks, were handcuffed.

He did not allege any witch hunt.

Today, he has adopted a silly view first put forth by PLP Senator Fred Mitchell that the new administration is “slave shaming former ministers of the government in non-violent alleged infractions of the law”.

If one were to adopt and believe his assertions, one would accept that the police have been so manipulated by the executive that they have brought these PLPs to court on trumped up charges and have treated them inhumanely as a result of some directive.

While the prominent among us have these powerful voices to speak on their behalf, others, sadly, do not.

Where was Davis’ voice when Ministry of Education clerk Paulette Wilson was charged in June with the theft of $7,000 from the Ministry of Education?

She and security guard Andrew Bridgewater were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit falsification of accounts and one count of fraud by false pretenses.

These, too, are non-violent offenses.

They, too, were handcuffed when escorted into court.

They were remanded.

But there are many others who have gone before the courts on non-violent offenses who have been shackled.

There have been many who have gone to court limping — alleging abusive actions by police officers.

These cases are countless. Admittedly, those who allege abuse on the part of police are often charged with violent offenses.

There have also been other cases of police brutality involving people who are never charged before the courts.

Their matters are sometimes reported to the police’s complaints unit.

Others come to the media with their allegations.

Davis and the bishop ought not be surprised to learn that their statements, more than anything, angered those who were already angered about what they perceived to be abusive actions by those previously in power.

This faux outrage by Davis is a desperate attempt at appealing to his party’s narrow base and miring these legal matters into politics.

There is no slave shaming going on here.

 

Fair trial

What Davis and the bishop ought to be encouraging is that these men have their day in court; that they receive fair trials and that justice be administered in a dispassionate fashion.

It is disgraceful that the opposition leader is seeking to rile up PLPs instead.

Furthering the divisions, Davis announced, “The PLPs are going to be asked to come together shortly to demonstrate our contempt for these inhumane actions.”

We have said it before: the more Davis speaks, the more so many want him to stop speaking.

Allow the evidence to come out in the matters involving Gibson, Dorsett and Smith. Allow them to be subject to fair hearings.

Trying to anger the base and malign the integrity of police officers is seedy and unfortunate.

There is a certain level of discomfort in the signals Davis has sent, and in the signals sent by Ellis in his statement.

There seems to be an expectation that there should be a different set of rules for certain people.

This kind of divide does not foster trust in the police or in our system of justice — a system that is supposed to be fair to all.

It is damaging to democracy.

When Bahamians hear the opposition leader and a prominent bishop speaking on behalf of the political elite, but are silent when it comes to the treatment of other suspects — including those on non-violent charges, they see evidence of double standards.

If there is to be any outrage here, it is how certain prominent voices among us seek to create division in our system.

Our colleague, Quincy Parker, recently posted his thoughts on these matters.

Parker wrote: “The very idea that all of a sudden we must move heaven and hell to change the law because these individuals have been ‘paraded’ and ‘slave shamed’ and otherwise treated like every other person brought before our courts stinks to high heaven and must be an offense in the nostrils of a righteous god.

“The outpouring of sorrow and woe, the weeping and wailing, the gnashing of teeth, it is all too much!”

Parker asked: “Have we never seen anyone else limping in court? Chile please! Consider what you are saying: men like Shane Gibson, Kenred Dorsett and Frank Smith must — simply because they had the fortune to earn your trust in the political arena — be treated better than other people for no other reason.

“How is that remotely fair? How can you call that righteousness?”

We must continue to stand firm against this “elitists versus the rest of us” mind set that is at the core of the messages we speak of today.

There must not be any divide in how suspects are treated.

The police procedure should be applicable for all. Either all non-violent offenders who pose no flight risk are shackled, or they are not.

Those with injuries should be dealt with in the same fashion — no matter their background, economic or political status.

Those who remained silent when others were treated in the same manner as Gibson, Smith and Dorsett ought not be taken seriously in raising holy hell now.

What they ought to be promoting is equal treatment for suspects by police and one standard of justice for all, and, again, encouraging a fair trial for everyone charged in court.

They ought to allow the justice system to do its work. It is the same justice system the PLP left in place. The same officers promoted under the Christie administration, because they were deemed competent professionals, are handling these cases.

Allow these matters to play out without seeking to poison the atmosphere ahead of the trials.

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