A leading defense attorney in Grenada has cited massive security breaches at the new prison facility created by the Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s on the world famous Grand Anse beach in the south of the island.
The lawyer was speaking to THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday – the same day that Attorney General Dia Forrester confirmed that a section of the old campus on Grand Anse beach owned by St. George’s University (SGU) will now be used as a prison and lock-up facility.
Forrester said it would be used to hold prisoners on remand to make sure that they are free of Covid-19 before being taken up to the main prison at Richmond Hill.
According to the defense lawyer, government has been using the SGU facility since early August to hold persons sent on remand to the main prison by the Magistrates on the island.
He said that these persons are placed in the Grand Anse location on quarantine for 14 days and then transferred to Richmond Hill prison.
He made mention of one of his clients who was remanded in early August at around 9.30 to 10 o’clock to Grand Anse by the Acting Chief Magistrate, Teddy St Louis.
“At around 2 o’clock the young man showed up in my office. I said to him, I thought you were remanded. He said, yes but down there (SGU Campus) we just walking in and out when we want – a couple of fellahs went and buy KFC and then they going back in later”.
According to the lawyer, his client indicated to him that he decided to come into the law office “to ask you some questions about the case but I’m going back later (to the lock-up).”
“Ah say, boy get out my office and go back down there. He say, yes but I have to go and check a partner of mine so after I check him I will go back down there later. I say, boy only in Grenada” (this could happen).
“I can confirm that is true – the old SGU campus is used as a makeshift holding pen for inmates, either for the short term or the medium term. No one who is sentenced is sent down there but defendants who are on remand are housed at the SGU campus on Grand Anse beach.
Another seasoned legal practitioner has criticised the Mitchell-led regime over its decision to set up a holding prison on the popular Grand Anse beach.
“You don’t put a prison on Grand Anse beach. You must find some other place to put them men,. You wouldn’t go and put a prison next to your premier hotel – your world renowned Spice Island Beach Resort,” he said.
The lawyer was adamant that if the owner of the resort, the late Royston Hopkin was alive the NNP government would never have been allowed to set up a prison in close proximity to the hotel.
Hopkin, a financial donor to Prime Minister Mitchell, is known to have used his clout as one of the island’s premier hoteliers, to prevent some business ventures from setting up shop near to his award-winning resort.
According to the attorney-at-law, a guest paying US$900.00 a night to stay at Spice would not be amused on waking up the next day to realise that they are staying right next to a prison.
“That is crazy – you can’t do that,” he said.
The lawyer expressed fears that some prisoners in Richmond Hill might now want to deliberately catch Covid-19 to go down to the facility on Grand Anse beach.
“What I seeing (happening) in that prison there (at Richmond Hill) and you can go down and relax and have sea breeze blowing in your face (at the SGU campus), some of them men will catch Covid and go down there,” he said.
The attorney also raised concern about additional security to be used for the remand prisoners held on Grand Anse beach.
He also said he was aware of the major security breach when one remand prisoner was able to walk out of the facility and go into the city to meet his lawyer and suggested “that just tell you how lax the security is down there”.
The attorney-at-law took strong issue with the move by the Mitchell-led government to set up a new prison on Grand Anse beach to isolate potential Covid-19 persons from the main prison population and suggested that this flies in the face of the administration’s own policies to combat the deadly virus among ordinary Grenadians.
He said: “If they see it necessary to isolate the prisoners from the general population because they realise that it is a highly contagious disease, why then you are having Covid patients at the Hospital among the general population.
“You put prisoners on the beach and you just mix up all the patients in the hospital. That doesn’t make any sense to me. You recognise the need to isolate the prisoners but the ordinary hospital patients you have them up there together”.
“Why you didn’t use down there as an Isolation Centre for ordinary Covid patients? To me that would have make more sense”.
The attorney said he believes that the Richmond Hill prison has enough land on the compound to quickly put up a structure to house the remand prisoners.