Dismissal of constables in allegation of sex assault against juvenile rescinded

-mayor pillories Foo for not taking action

Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee Sherod Duncan addressing the council on Tuesday evening.

The dismissal of two city constables at the centre of an allegation of sexual assault against a juvenile will be rescinded, and the men sent on administrative leave instead, pending a report from the city’s Legal Affairs Committee.

The decision was made on Tuesday night during an extraordinary meeting at City Hall, and comes just days after a letter was sent by the Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan advising that the Corporal that reported the matter, Quacy Baveghems, be given a fair hearing as due process was not followed in the matter.

The Legal Affairs Committee, as a result of a motion passed on Tuesday night, will now have seven working days to present its report to the council.

Tuesday’s session also saw a blistering attack by Mayor Patricia Chase-Green on Chief Constable Andrew Foo for not taking action in the matter.

The suggestion to have the men sent on administrative leave came from Town Clerk Royston King, who had issued the dismissals, and was an alternative to Councillor Akeem Peters’ suggestion that rather than firing, the council explore suspending the officers until the investigation has concluded.

Peters’ motion to have the decision rescinded had been tabled and put to a vote, which saw nine councillors voting in favour of the motion, one against it and seven abstaining.

Patricia Chase-Green

Having not gotten the two-thirds majority, the council appeared to be in a rut, until King reminded those present that the decision to dismiss the  employees had been made at the administrative level and not at the level of the council, and therefore, it could again be handled at the administrative level.

King had dismissed the constables a long time after the assault allegation and investigations by the Legal Affairs Committee.

He related on Tuesday that his reason for dismissing the men was because the council had been “brought into disrepute” as a result of the incident and there “appeared to be no end in sight” to the committee’s investigations.

Chase-Green did not assent easily to King’s suggestion that the matter be handled at the level of the administration, as she posited that she had already received bad advice from the Town Clerk on the matter.

She argued that the decision had first been brought to the council and accepted by it, however, a quick review of the minutes proved that King had, in fact, merely presented the decision during his opening remarks, and as he put it, there had been “no dissenting voice.”

On this fact, the earlier vote by the Councillors was rendered null and void.

Something Amiss

Andrew Foo

Councillor Peters, a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, had related that his suggestion that the men be suspended with pay was in light of the committee’s ongoing investigations which seem to point to something being “amiss”.

“The story like you rightfully said, got many sides. And we’re yet to conclude who’s the victim here because it changes and it fluctuates—who is the perpetrator, who did whatever…considering all that has happened and all that I’ve seen today, it doesn’t add up. Something is amiss somewhere along the line,” Peters stated, continuing:

“Several questions are out there—why haven’t the national police concluded on the matter? And that speaks volumes to me because it’s either one out of two things— a lack of evidence or somebody has friends in very high places, but I don’t think it’s the latter because of what we’ve seen today,” he said.

The Legal Affairs Committee met on Tuesday and is expected to meet again. Its Chairman, Sherod Duncan, had related to Stabroek News on Sunday that the committee is set to go over additional statements that they received and should be able to present a report on the matter within a week.

Peters’ sentiment had been supported by Deputy Mayor Lionel Jaikarran, and Councillor Bishram Kuppen, who both stated that the men should not have been dismissed before the investigations were concluded.

The value of the Legal Affairs Committee was disputed by Councilor Welton Clarke, who made plain his position that the council should let the matter “go where it ought to go,” as the role of establishing culpability, he opined, does not lay at the helm of the city council.

Foo is to blame

Royston King

“I was the one who called for the investigation, not (Chief Constable Andrew) Foo. But people treating Foo like if he’s step-child, he ain got nothing fuh do with this. He got everything to do with this. If anybody should be sent home it should be Foo. From the highest level. There were so many loops in that investigation…” the Mayor asserted, referring to calls from members of the Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) for herself, King and Duncan to be removed and even charged.

Chase-Green related that she received a call from the Chief Constable on the morning of the 23rd of August. The sexual assault was said to have occurred between August 22nd and August 23rd.

“He says to me, Madam Mayor, “I have a matter to report to you.” I said “what is it?” He said he received a report that Lance Corporal Pellew was involved in a matter in the enquiries office…and I said, “and what did you do?”(he replied)  “Nothing.” And I put down the phone,” Chase-Green recalled to the council on Tuesday night.

“And when it registered to my mind what he said I picked the phone up immediately and I said, “Chief Constable, repeat what (you)  just said to me.” He said, “Madam Mayor, Corporal Baveghems reported to me that he saw Corporal Pellew having sex with this boy.” I said, “and what did Corporal Baveghems do?” He did nothing. I said, “what do you mean he did nothing?” I said, “well he’s supposed to be locked up,” the Mayor recounted.

Chase-Green further related that she told Foo to investigate the matter and turn in a report. She said she also called the Town Clerk and informed him of what had transpired, along with the fact that a report was requested.

According to the Mayor, she had heard nothing more of the matter until about three weeks later when she read an article in an edition of the Kaieteur News.

“…I seh well this can’t be. I asked for the report. The Chief Constable know that this happen, in a previous matter, the person was put under close arrest and the matter was referred to the national police…Monday I came here at statutory meeting and I made it quite clear in the presence of all councilors and the town clerk what I read in the newspaper and I said right there…if you don’t get a report to me in 24 hours, I am sending you home because I am not taking this disrespect…” she related.

“You did nothing,” Chase-Green declared looking towards Foo. “Who is the accessory to the crime? Who has the authority to charge the Corporal? Me? The Town Clerk? (Chapter) 28.01 gave you all the reasons and all the areas where you can charge a constable in dereliction of duty. And the Chief Constable did nothing. Why? Because he got a blue-eyed baby in the batch?”

“…about three weeks now the matter was handed to the national police. Why they (MAPM)  picketing out here? Why they picketing that I’m an accessory to crime? Duncan is an accessory to crime? What crime we’re accessories to? The Chief Constable had everything in his hand to charge both men and carry them to the orderly room and try the matter there and he failed to do that. He sent it to the Legal Affairs Committee,” she stated.

The preliminary report submitted to her, she said, concluded that the allegation be accepted because the Lance Corporal being accused had been involved in a matter of a similar nature before. It also recommended that Baveghems be charged for neglect of duty and that the matter referred to the Legal Affairs Committee.”

“The investigative officer was biased in his investigation when he said in his conclusion that because the man thief yesterday, he got to thief tonight so lock he up, knock off. Is that the way justice is dispensed? Is that the way?” Chase-Green later questioned.

The arrest

“The question arises…when Mr Baveghems saw this act as he claims, he left the prosecution’s department…came out, has to pass a door as big as this, which is the enquiries door; these two people are having sex in the enquiries room, so he passing them having sex to go to the front…he stood there and allowed the sex act according to him to be performed to completion…”

She noted that according to Baveghem’s report, he had said nothing, not even to the boy, who she emphasized was taken into custody by him.

The Mayor related that based on statements she had read, the boy was taken to the outpost after the constables saw him standing on the road and he claimed to be waiting for a bus. He was reportedly told that if the patrol vehicle passed again and he was still there, he would be picked up.

He was reportedly brought in on August 17th, lodged, and held at the Bourda outpost until August 22nd.

She related that when he was taken to court, there was a mix up with his age, and a woman (first name provided)  later brought his birth certificate. The court later determined that he should have been charged for wandering rather than loitering, the charge he was brought in on, and the matter was dismissed.

“If the case was dismissed, tell me on what basis was he brought back here to spend the night? (the woman who provided the certificate)—was there. He should have been released into the (custody of) the guardian who brought his birth certificate…” Chase-Green opined.

Justice

“Now this corporal, having seen all of this happen, if this boy is a boy of 15 years of age, is this his first sexual experience of such a nature? And you did nothing? Under the child protection act you have a right to speak! And you say well, me Duncan and King must be locked up, why wasn’t he locked up? He saw the act. He did nothing. He witnessed an act according to him…he didn’t even report it in his daily diary…he said nothing to no one…he ain even touch the man on his shoulder and say, “hey banna, wah going on?”

“…the man jump all over—he write as constable, he write as grandmaster, he write as all kinda thing to everybody, everybody, that he wasn’t given a hearing. Did he give the child a hearing? Did he stop the act and try to care for that child?” she questioned.

Duncan, in response to Chase-Green’s remarks, had stated that the “legal issue” is that a fair hearing must be given, regardless of what the evidence may suggest.

The Mayor posited on Tuesday night that justice must not only be done, but also appear to be done, as she noted that there are three persons involved in the matter.

“…and if justice was not done to Baveghems, justice was definitely not done to Pellew. And justice, even worse, was not done to the young man, because even at the level of this council, we have a welfare officer and the administration of the chief constable failed to call in the welfare officer…” she said.

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