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Court awards EC$1 million for death of Oscar Bartholomew

Oscar Bartholomew – his death at the hands of the police attracted worldwide attention

A court in Grenada has handed out a one million $EC award in damages to the family of Grenadian-born Canadian naturalised citizen Oscar Bartholomew who met his death in December 2011 after he was badly beaten by several police officers at a police station in St. David.

Master Jan Drysdale handed down the ruling in a civil suit brought by Colette St Cyr, the wife of Bartholomew and Shem Pierre, on behalf of the Administrators of the Estate of the deceased.

Attorney-at-law Derick Sylvester was retained by the Bartholomew family to represent them in the lawsuit.

The 39-year old Bartholomew was on a Christmas visit to his homeland when he met his death in an incident that attracted worldwide media attention.

His wife had stopped at the St David’s police station to use the washroom when Bartholomew gave his trademark bear hug to a female police officer who cried out for help and her male colleagues attempted to arrest him.

There was some kind of altercation and he was taken into custody and mauled by police officers who were then charged with Manslaughter in 2017.

The civil lawsuit was filed by Attorney Sylvester against the Attorney General of Grenada along with police officers Kenton Hazzard, Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness, Rody Felix and Wendell Sylvester.

Master Drysdale ordered that the Defendants pay the following in the Oscar Bartholomew case:

  • Special damages in the sum of $4,000.00 with interest thereon at the rate of 3% per annum from the date of the accident to the date of judgment on assessment.
  • Damages for loss of expectation of life in the sum of $5,000.00.
  • Loss of income in the sum of $947,463.39.
  • Damages for pain and suffering and loss of amenities in the sum of $10,000.00 with interest thereon at the rate of 6% per annum.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces in full the 17- page judgement of the Master:-

DECISION ON ASSESSMENT
[1] Drysdale, M.: The instant matter concerns an assessment of damages arising out of the unlawful actions of servants or agents of the Crown which resulted in the untimely death of the Peter Oscar Bartholomew, (hereinafter “the Deceased”). After a contested trial, liability was determined in favour of the Claimant against all but the Fourth Defendant. The matter was then assigned to the Master for assessment of damages.

Background
[2] On the 261h day of December 2011, the Deceased, his widow and a friend were driving in the direction of Sauteurs in the Parish of Saint Patrick to visit family who resided there. At about 3 p.m. the Deceased stopped at the Saint David Police Station so that the his wife and the friend could make use the restroom facilities there.

(3] While awaiting the return of his wife, the Deceased began a discussion with the persons outside of the police station. During this time, he embraced a female police officer whom he mistook for his friend . A commotion ensued and the Deceased was subsequently violently detained.

[4] The First, Second, Third, and Fifth named Defendants thereafter proceeded to issue several blows to the Deceased so that he was rendered unconscious.

[5] The Deceased was thereafter taken to the General Hospital on Grand Etang Road in the City of Saint George’ s and was pronounced dead at about 8:15 a.m. the following day.

[6] The Claimant filed witness statements and submissions. The Sixth Defendant filed submissions and also challenged the evidence of the Claimant by way of cross examination. For the purposes of clarity a summary of the evidence in chief of the witnesses followed by evidence solicited on cross examination is contained hereunder.

Summary of Evidence

Shem Pierre
[7] The witness deposed that he was the cousin of the Deceased. That they were very close growing up and their relationship persisted even after the Deceased relocated to Canada. As such each year when the Deceased and his family visited Grenada that they would visit him.

[8] That he is well able to testify to the character of the Deceased. The Deceased was a high spirited, easy going and energetic person. He was also well loved by everyone and in particular by his family in St. David and St. George. He was also a man who loved and supported his family.

[9] He was not present when the incident that led to the death of the Deceased. However once informed that the Deceased had been hospitalised , he immediately went to the hospital to see him. Upon arrival he observed that there was police security at the entrance of the room. As such he was only allowed to see the Deceased when medical personnel were in the room.

[10] When he saw the Deceased he observed that the Deceased was unconscious and wheezing. Initially he thought that this meant that the Deceased was trying to speak but was subsequently informed that the Deceased was struggling to breathe. The Deceased’s head and face were also abnormally swollen. There was bloody residue under his eyes, head lips and shoulders.

[11] The following day upon return to the hospital he was told by Dolette, the Deceased’s wife that he had died. The Deceased’s body had been removed from the Hospital but information on where he was being housed was not forthcoming from hospital personnel. Eventually through social media he was able to find out that the body had been sent to the La Qua Funeral Home in St. George’s.

[12] At the funeral home he was able to view the Deceased’s body. He observed that it had bruises and gashes all over. It was reminiscent of someone whom had been tortured.

[13] That he has been devastated and traumatised from the entire ordeal. As such he now experiences severe headaches and has difficulty sleeping.

[14] There was no cross examination of this witness and his evidence is therefore unchallenged.

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Dolette St Cyr Bartholomew
[15] The witness deposed that she is the widow of the Deceased. Prior to the death of the Deceased they lived in Canada where the Deceased worked as a Carpenter. Together they have one child, a daughter who at the material time was aged 13.

[16] On 26th December 2011 , they left Grand Anse to visit family residing in Sauteurs. On the way they picked up a female friend, named Margaret. On the journey both Margaret and she needed to use a bathroom. Therefore, at about 3 p.m. they stopped at the St. David’s Police station for that purpose. Margaret spoke with two persons she was familiar with whilst the Deceased spoke with someone outside the Police Station. There was a policewoman and policeman present.

[17] She was allowed to use the restroom which was downstairs. Within 5 to 10 minutes she was finished and exited the Police Station. There she found the Deceased lying on the ground with two persons in plain clothes on top of him.

There was also one uniformed police officer present.

[18] Soon thereafter three uniformed police officers arrived, one with handcuffs.

That police officer took the Deceased inside the police station. The Deceased did not have any visible injuries to his head at that time.

[19] She spoke to a female officer who explained that the Deceased had used his hand to try to pick her up. That this was an insult and for that reason the Deceased was facing charges. Whilst in the police station she observed the Deceased’s wallet on the floor and picked it up. That she could hear sounds of a struggle coming from the room in which the Deceased was being held. She also heard the Deceased scream her name and ask for his wallet.

[20] She responded by shouting that she had his wallet. He then screamed that he needed a lawyer. She heard him scream her name again. This was followed by groaning. She interpreted that to mean that the Deceased was in pain.

[21] Thereafter four police officers questioned her on whether the Deceased had a mental problem or was on medication to which she responded in the negative.

She begged them to call an ambulance for the Deceased if they were of the opinion that he had a mental problem. They ignored her plea. She again pleaded with another officer to call for an ambulance but her pleas again went unheeded.

[22] She observed an officer enter the room where the Deceased was being held with a truncheon. A long scream soon followed from the Deceased. She again repeated her requests for an ambulance to be called to no avail.

[23] About 1 hour and 20 minutes after the Deceased was brought into the Police Station a doctor arrived to attend to the Deceased. Before the Doctor entered the room where the Deceased was housed she spoke briefly to him and told him that the Deceased did not have any mental illness. When the Doctor proceeded to open the door she saw the Deceased lying on his back on the ground unconscious. His feet were bound with a belt and his hands were handcuffed. There was a lot of blood to the back of the head.

[24] The Doctor told her that the Deceased did not have a mental problem but had to be immediately transported to the Hospital. It was now about 4.30p.m.

[25] At the Hospital she was told that the Deceased was in critical condition and further that his prognosis was very severe. He was also unstable which precluded him from being transferred overseas for further medical treatment.

[26] She stayed with the Deceased the entire night and only returned to Grande Anse shortly to change her clothing the next morning. She arrived at the Hospital at 8 am the following day. Oscar died 15 minutes later.

[27] She was devastated by the death of the Deceased who was not only her husband but also her best friend. Her devastation was more acute as the Deceased’s death was as a direct result of the inhuman way in which his life was extinguished.

[28] The entire ordeal affected her adversely in that she found it difficult to sleep and would repeatedly hear the cries of the Deceased as he called out for help whilst he was mercilessly beaten at the Police Station. The Deceased suffered numerous injuries all over his body.

[29] The Deceased was a kind and outgoing person who would not have deliberately hurt anyone. He was also very family oriented who spent only 1/3 of his income on himself with the remaining 2/3 on his family. In addition to his substantive position the Deceased also did several free lance jobs and the income derived from that he spent on the family.

[30] That the Deceased income was also used to pay various utilities and their daughter’s educational fees. Their daughter at the time had the ambition of furthering her education and attending college.

[31] Consequent upon his death she incurred funeral expenses as well as expenses for the preparation of an independent autopsy which were significant.

[32] On cross-examination the witness was questioned on whether she had evidence to substantiate her claims that the Deceased spent 2/3 of his income on the family. She admitted that she did not have any such evidence. She was also questioned on the assertion that the Deceased’s income was used to pay the utilities and their daughter’s school fees. Again, the witness admitted that she did not have any documentation.

[33] The witness was questioned on the funeral expenses and whether a receipt for this was tendered to the Court. She insisted that she had a receipt as she had paid the funeral expenses.

TO BE CONTINUED

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