Instructions were given to a prison staffer to take a nude picture of Royden Williams called `Smallie’ with his cellphone owing to the unavailability of the prison’s camera, according to Prison Director (ag) Gladwin Samuels who said yesterday that authorities are still working to ascertain how it was leaked to the public.
Based on what he said two persons had direct access to the photograph and another two limited access. Samuels said that no one can be ruled out as the investigation is inconclusive thus far.
A nude photograph of Williams, with his hands handcuffed and feet shackled, was posted on Facebook on Tuesday. In the photo, Williams is seen holding a bottle of water over his privates. It is unclear when the photograph was taken. The circulation of the photo has caused consternation. President of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) Mike McCormack has since called for those responsible for the leakage to be disciplined.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday Samuels reiterated that instructions were given for the photograph to be taken for the purpose of updating prison records specifically in keeping with the tattoos that are about Williams’ entire body. “That was the only intended purpose of the photograph,” he said adding, “that being the case because of how it happened a cellphone was used to take the photograph and not the prison camera which was not at that prison at the time.” The prison being referred to is the facility at Camp Street.
According to Samuels, the investigation at the moment is inconclusive because “it is difficult to determine who exactly sent the photograph outside”. When asked about a possible penalty against the person who took the photograph with his cell phone, he made it clear that instructions were given for the cellphone to be used. “The persons just don’t take out their cellphone and just flash… that is what was available,” he said.
He went on to explain that aside from the photographer, a receptionist who received the image with the task of printing and updating Williams’ prison records, had direct access to the phone. He did not expand on the level of access the other two persons had.
Samuels told this newspaper that he is aware that other photographs of Williams were taken but “to say specifically if the nude photograph was taken, I cannot verify that and that is why I said I had to work with the four persons…so therein lies the difficulty. I have no means of verifying from which device a photograph was sent.” He said that he will still say there are four suspects because if he is to rule out the other two persons, he would be “doing so without any substantive evidence. While they might be slightly less involved I just do not want to rule them out.”
Asked what happens now, he stressed that the investigation is not closed. “Some investigations you have very quick conclusions,“ he said, adding that he is very upset that the nude photo was made public.
“The extent to which I am upset about the unprofessionalism displayed cannot be expressed in words. However with that I still cannot go locking up people left, right and centre,” he said.
“I wish to apologize for the unprofessionalism that happened but in light of all that is happening, except that I have additional information to go forward I just do not want to go instituting charges,” he said. “The investigation is still active, it is not closed.”
Samuels said that Williams’ file has since been updated with the photograph in question.
Guyana Police Force Public Relations Officer Shivpersaud Bacchus, in a statement hours after the photo appeared on Facebook, said even though the stripping of inmates is done for identification purposes, such as to document distinguishing features like tattoos, the leaking of the photo cannot be condoned.
Bacchus said the “grossly unethical, irresponsible and insensitive” act was committed within the prison environment during the period when Williams was being processed and prior to his placement in a cell.
Williams said to be the mastermind of the July 9 deadly prison unrest at Camp Street was intercepted and recaptured around 8 pm on Monday last by the police along the Weldaad, West Coast Berbice Public Road. Williams and five others broke out of the prison after starting a fire and shooting and chopping prison wardens.
At the time of his arrest, Williams was travelling in a public minibus, alone and unarmed.