Counsel for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), who had requested that Dwane Williams, the alleged witness to the Lindo Creek murders, be called to testify, were yesterday blindsided by the news that he had already been privately interviewed by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) investigating the killings.
This was shared just minutes before Justice Donald Trotman, who is leading the inquiry, ruled against an application to have Williams testify in open court and later indicated that he did not see the need for an in-camera hearing as was requested subsequently.
Trotman indicated that he was unaware that the attorneys had not yet been in possession of Williams’ statements, including the statement he would have given to Corporal Trevor Reid on the matter a decade ago.
He directed that they be provided with the statements before allowing a break, and resuming to deliver his ruling on the application.
Trotman, reading the ruling, related that the statement was given by Williams on April 4th, 2018, at the Brickdam Police Station, and was submitted by him to the commission, where it was repeated orally in evidence.
“The statement alluded to included nothing that incriminated members of the Defence Force. Indeed, if at all, it could be considered as being more favourable to the force than adverse,” he related.
Justice Trotman noted that he had taken into account a number of factors before arriving at his decision, including the fact that Williams is currently in police custody pending indictable proceedings and that he is also in the protective custody of the police.
“Williams himself, when interviewed by the Commission, was pleadingly emphatic that he does not want to be exposed to a public hearing which could endanger his personal security and his personal life. And that there is nothing else he would want to say if he is called to give evidence at a public hearing,” Trotman stated.
“Taking these matters into consideration and, most particularly, Williams’ own concern for his personal safety and security, the commission must have regard for his entitlement to exercise his fundamental human right to enjoy the security of his person and to the provisions of the Witness Protection Act since he is a pending witness to a pending indictable proceedings,” he added.
Trotman noted that the tribunal has been governed by its Terms of Reference and the CoI Act and he pointed out that the GDF was allowed representation, and witnesses were examined under oath, in accordance with sections 13 and 10 of the Act, respectively.
The Commissioner further said that he considers it “unnecessary” and “ill-advisable” to call Williams to take the stand, before adding that it is recognised that CoI are not trials, “not prosecutorial or adversarial” and are “not bound by the rigid principles of standard of proof and other procedures required in a formal, judicial, civil or criminal proceedings.”
Prior to Trotman’s ruling, the attorneys for the GDF had learnt of Williams’ statement.
CoI attorney Patrice Henry would have revealed the existence of this latest statement after GDF attorney Leslie Sobers reminded Trotman about his application for viva voce evidence to be delivered by Williams. Sobers had enquired whether Henry would be considering inviting Williams for an in-camera hearing, after the lawyer indicated that private hearings would be held even though the public hearings have concluded.
“Mr Williams was invited previously by this commission for an interview and he would have given a statement…at this stage sir, I have no difficulty disclosing the statements obtained by the commission…,” Henry stated.
GDF attorney Roysdale Forde then questioned what purpose releasing those statements would now serve as the hearing had concluded.
“I find it most inappropriate…we have a fundamental difference of opinion and it’s one of principle. He cannot have properly retained in his possession the statement of Dwane Williams when we were asking repeatedly for Dwane Williams to come, for Dwane Williams to be made available, for statements incriminating and exculpatory and we received nothing. Nothing,” Forde asserted.
“And then we’re told at the conclusion in a most contemptuous and insulting manner that he has the statement, it was taken previously, and if we want it we would get it now,” he added.
Justice Trotman, opining that Williams’ statement falls within neither category identified by Forde, nevertheless indicated that Henry was asked to make those statements available if they could be “considered a matter of dispute.”
Last Monday, when the lawyers representing the GDF had enquired into whether Williams would be called before the commission, they were informed by Henry that Williams remains in the protective custody of the police, and will only be brought before the tribunal if the GDF can guarantee his safety.
Henry had then informed that the commission would be calling to testify the next day, the officer that took his statement. The statement referenced, however, was reportedly taken on July 4th, 2008. There had been no mention of a later statement.
The public hearings of the CoI ended yesterday.