While expressing concern at the “regular incidents” of prisoners hanging themselves in police lock-ups, Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee yesterday said that ways will soon be sought to redesign the holding facilities to prevent a recurrence.
Rohee was speaking to reporters at a press briefing on the commemoration activities for the 33rd anniversary of the establishment of Community Policing in Guyana.
His comments come days after a labourer was found hanging by his jersey in the lock-ups at the No. 51 Police Station, where he was being held on suspicion of break and enter and larceny. This is the second such incident in less than a month
According to the Minister “One of the things that I said I was also concerned about is the regular incidents of persons hanging themselves in police lock-ups. This is about the third occasion where something like this has happened”. He told the media that the first was at the Enmore Police Outpost, the second at La Grange and then the recent case at No 51.
“I am not very happy about that”, he pointed out adding that it was only recently that he spoke to Police Commissioner Henry Greene about how we (the security sector) could seek to redesign the lock-ups to ensure that a person does not use his trousers or his shirt, to reach where the ventilation bars are to create a noose for him or herself.
On Wednesday 45-year-old Deodat Persaud who had been reported missing by his relatives, was found hanging in the Number 51 police station lock-ups during a routine check.
Prior to his detention, the labourer had gone to Suriname to fish with three others on February 10. However, only the three men returned to Guyana on February 24. After enquiries Persaud’s relatives were told that he had jumped off the vessel.
The man’s brother subsequently made a report to the police and the other crew members but relatives of the men subsequently went to Suriname where they located him.
The man was taken to Springlands Police Station where he “presented himself as being alive and well”
Checks of police records revealed however he was a suspect in a break and enter and larceny matter committed on a fisherman and as such he was detained and subsequently transferred to No. 51 Police Station. He was found hanging in the lock-ups the following afternoon.
The Police Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has since launched an investigation into the man’s death.
Last month, on February 10, Mahendra Seenarine had been found hanging in the La Grange lock-ups after being arrested and a post-mortem examination had revealed that he died from asphyxiation due to hanging. Seenarine, 38, and a labourer of Good Land, Canal Number One, West Bank Demerara was discovered hanging in his cell at the lock-ups around 9:30 pm on that date, during a routine check, the police had said at the time.
Surindranauth Bhoojnaut, a 31-year-old Belmont, Mahaica resident was found hanging in the lock-ups at the Mahaica Police Station on June 3 last year. He had been placed there after he allegedly hit a woman he had a pending court matter with. He had created a noose with his belt which he attached to the bars of a ventilation window on the southern wall of his cell.
In January of the same year 19-year-old Ramesh Sawh was found hanging by his jersey in the Enmore lock-ups. Relatives have refused to accept that he committed suicide, saying that he showed no signs that he wanted to take his own life. Added to that they said he was in custody for a simple offence which could not have prompted such a drastic action. One rank has since been transferred. The matter was taken to the Police Complaints Authority and the Chairman Cecil Kennard recommended that an inquest be held into the death.
Six months later Chief Justice Ian Chang ordered that an inquest be held. The matter is currently being conducted by Magistrate Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus at the Cove and John Magistrate’s Court. Several persons have testified so far.
Quizzed on when work would begin on the lock-ups, Rohee told the media that it a bit too early to give a date as a number of things have to be looked at.
Out of the $588 million allocated by Government in this year’s budget for the upgrading of physical infrastructure in the security sector, several million will be spent on the rehabilitation of the Brickdam lock-ups.
The Minister yesterday said that he knows that money has been allocated for the expansion of the detention facility but pointed out that they are now at the stage where a time table for all the capital work under the Ministry of Home Affairs in terms of designs, awarding of contracts, construction work among other things are being looked at.
Rohee stated after visiting many of the lock-ups around the country, it is notable that there is a general need for improvement.
“…this is not an admission, this is what I have said before, after I have visited these stations. There is need for general improvement. But we are working on that”, he said.