Canadians have been watching Grenada closely since Toronto resident Oscar Bartholomew was allegedly beaten to death by police while visiting his family for Christmas. The Royal Grenada Police Force has come under fire as five members face manslaughter charges.
Credits: CHRIS DOUCETTE/TORONTO SUN
TORONTO - If defence lawyers get their way, it could be years before the cops accused of beating Toronto resident Oscar Bartholomew to death in Grenada stand trial.
The preliminary hearing that began in January to determine if there is enough evidence to go forward with manslaughter charges came to a halt recently when lawyers for the five accused Royal Grenada Police Force officers asked for a stay of the proceedings while they seek a coroner's inquiry.
"I believe it's a tactical move," Derek Sylvester, the Bartholomew family's lawyer, told QMI Agency. "They are trying to delay the preliminary hearing."
If the high court disagrees with the request for the coroner's inquiry, the defence can take their argument to the court of appeals, he said. And if that fails, they can then try their luck in Superior court.
"It could be two or three years down the road before the preliminary hearing resumes," Sylvester said.
He said coroner's inquiries are called to answer questions about cause of death, which in this case is unnecessary.
"Our position is his death was clearly caused by the beating," Sylvester said.
Coroner's inquiries are similar to a coroner's inquest in Canada and are not meant to assign blame.
Sylvester said such inquiries only aim to determine when the person died, how the person died and by what circumstances.
"But when a person has been charged, there's no need for a coroner's inquiry," he said, adding those questions would be answered at the trial.
Bartholomew, 39, was visiting family for the holidays and stopped by the St. David's police station on Boxing Day so his wife could use the restroom.
It's believed he mistook a female officer for an old friend and surprised her with a hug. Numerous cops allegedly rushed to her aid, accosted Bartholomew and dragged him into the station.
Sylvester alleged Bartholomew was bound, gagged and beaten to death.
Consts. Edward Gibson, Ruddy Felix, Kenton Hazzard, Wendell Sylvester, and Shaun Ganness were arrested. They are currently free on bail.
"This is the first time in our country that officers have been charged under such circumstances," Sylvester said.
The victim's family was upset to learn they may wait years for justice.
"We have a lot of questions and we are anxious for answers," Anthony Bartholomew said of his brother's death.