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Teen burnt while in police custody

Family fears biased investigation
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Jameson John, 18, shows the burn injuries he sustained while in custody at the Princes Town police station on December 24. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL

Relatives of 18-year-old Jameson John, who claimed he suffered burns while in police custody at the Princes Town Police Station on Christmas Eve, are calling for the police investigator in the matter to be replaced. They have raised questions about the integrity of the probe into the incident. John’s mother, Sherma Atwater, 38, expressed concerns over the investigations. She fears it will not be fair and free of bias. Seven officers, including a corporal, are under investigation for the incident involving John.



In a telephone interview, Atwater said she is uncomfortable with the investigator because he is attached to the Southern Division and has worked with the officers under investigation. Atwater believes her son will not get justice. “I am living in fear. It come like we have to be hiding from the police. I hope that I will get a fair investigation. But my concern is why these officers are still on duty at the station when they are being investigated,” she said.


Her lawyer Petronilla Basdeo also shared her client’s concerns and said she intended to write the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) over the matter. She said officers from the Professional Standards Bureau should be conducting the inquiry and not an officer who has worked with the officers under investigation. The T&T Guardian understands that one of the men arrested with John has refused to give a statement to the lead investigator because of his close affiliation with the officers of the Princes Town Police Station.


Basdeo said it appears the police investigation is being stalled and the Commissioner of Police and PCA director Gillian Lucky should intervene. On December 24, while John, of Moruga, was in custody at the station he was taken to the San Fernando General Hospital and treated for burns to his torso, leg and genital area. Officers claimed John spilt methylated spirits on his clothing while tending to a foot wound at his home and the clothes caught afire while he was passing by lit scented candles at the station.


However, Atwater denied this. She claimed her son told her he was in his underpants when a flammable liquid was poured on him and he was set on fire. Meanwhile, director of the PCA Gillian Lucky says the authority is “vigilantly monitoring” the police investigation. Lucky said the PCA is actively monitoring the police investigation into how John was injured, even though the PCA had to end its own investigation. Lucky said she has received a file from Assistant Commissioner Reyes, who is co-ordinating the investigation.


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