Former army officer finally out on bail on murder charge

 By KNews 

High Court has ordered that three murder accused be granted bail

 

- Judge declines contempt motion against police ranks

 


Former Guyana Defence Force Lieutenant, Diallo George, was yesterday finally released on bail, minutes after Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire disallowed a contempt motion brought against two police ranks. The motion had been filed by George’s attorney, Nigel Hughes.
Hughes had moved to the High Court seeking to have the two police ranks, an Assistant Superintendent and a Constable, cited for contempt. They had sought to have George return to the Camp Street prison despite an order issued on March 18 granting him bail.
George is accused of the 2004 murder of Army Private, Kwesi Todd, at Camp Jaguar, New River Triangle.
His attorney Nigel Hughes had successfully moved to the High Court for him to be granted his pre-trial liberty.
Justice George-Wiltshire before whom the bail application was made, had ordered that the state pay damages to the tune of $575,000.
George has been in custody since 2004 and endured two Preliminary Inquiries.
The judge also ordered that George’s Preliminary Inquiry commence within seven days of her ruling and should last no more than nine months.
If at the end of the Preliminary Inquiry, George is committed to stand trial in the High Court, his indictment must be presented before April 2011.

Former Army Lieutenant Diallo George signs the recognizance for his release in the presence of his attorney Nigel Hughes and his father Patrick George.

Attorney Hughes believes that there were efforts on the part of the prison authorities to frustrate the release of his client since the issuing of the bail order last week.
According to Hughes, bail was posted the day the order was made. His client was also ordered to lodge his passport and this was done.
He claimed that when the order for his client’s release was taken to the prison, an officer there, Bandu, refused to honour it claiming that he needed to see a body order before he could comply.
Hughes said that he contacted the Acting Registrar of the Supreme Court, informing him of the situation.
The Acting Registrar then made contact with the prison officer to assure him that a bail order was indeed issued by Justice George-Wiltshire and that there was no need for a body order, but the officer stuck to his position.
Hughes even sent a letter to the Commissioner of Police but the situation remained the same.
All of this took place last Friday.
Yesterday the accused turned up in the Georgetown Magistrates’ court six, before Magistrate Dale Kingston, for the commencement of the third Preliminary Inquiry.
There and then his attorney produced the order and informed the Magistrate of the situation.
But the prosecutor intervened and informed the Magistrate that she had received instructions to have the prisoner returned to the Camp Street Prison.
George was subsequently placed in the court lock-ups pending his return to Camp Street.
This prompted Hughes to again move to the High Court, seeking to have the police prosecutor and the arresting rank cited for contempt.
“It is obvious that the police have no intention of obeying the court order,” Hughes told Justice George-Wiltshire yesterday.
The Judge enquired if the accused had signed a recognizance and Hughes replied that he was not permitted to do so by Prison Officer Bandu.
The Police Prosecutor, Assistant Superintendent Fowler, when summoned before Justice George-Wiltshire, admitted that she was aware of the order but she claimed that she was of the opinion that George was already out on bail.
She told the High Court that she was surprised when she learnt that the accused was being brought from the Camp Street Prison.
Fowler said that she communicated this position to her immediate boss, Court Superintendent Maxine Graham, who instructed her to return the accused to the prison.
“Since there were some problems with the signing of documents, I took it upon myself to have the accused sent back to prison because he came from there,” the Police Prosecutor told the High Court.
“I did not mean any disrespect to the (High) Court. I don’t know why the prison authorities did not release him,” Assistant Superintendent Fowler added.
Constable Atkins who had placed George back into the court lock-ups yesterday said in his defence that he was merely following instructions from his superior.
Justice George-Wiltshire accepted the explanations of both Fowler and Atkins and ruled that there was no prima facie case to support the motion for contempt.
She noted that in the absence of the signed recognizance, the police were not authorized to release George.
She then ordered that the recognizance be signed in the High Court to prevent any further confusion.
“Although he lodged his bail the documentation has to be done (before the accused is released on bail),” the judge stated.
Eventually this was done and an elated George subsequently walked out of the court with his pre trial liberty.
“It feels good to be out of prison after six years. I cannot explain the way I feel right now,” George told members of the media.
He said that he did experience some amount of stress over the past weekend in light of what he described as efforts to prolong his pre trial detention.
“I lost a considerable amount of weight over the weekend due to the stress they caused me. Everything is okay now. I can’t complain anymore,” he said.
The father of the accused, Patrick George, was relieved that this stage of the proceedings has been resolved favourably.
He said that since Justice George-Wiltshire’s ruling on his son’s bail application, he has witnessed firsthand a high level of disrespect for court orders by both the police and prison officials.
“I could not believe that I would have been witnessing people displaying such arrogance and pomposity towards an order by a high court judge. I think if this is indicative of how this country is heading, then we’re heading for a catastrophe,” Patrick George told the media immediately after his son was released.
Attorney Hughes said that what transpired was not unexpected.
He referred to the granting of bail to another murder accused, Donsford Dodson, a little over a week ago. After that decision the police swooped down on his office in search of the accused.
“Last week when Mr. Dodson was granted bail, the police flagrantly violated the order of court. They sent 16 policemen to my office, looking for a man who had long gone home pursuant to the order of court. We anticipated this but in this case the obstruction came from the prison,” Hughes stated.
He said that unfortunately the two police ranks who were facing the contempt charge were being made scapegoats.
According to Hughes, the senior police officers who obviously gave the instructions are not brave enough to come to court and say so.
But Hughes assured that this is certainly not the end of the matter.
He informed that not only will contempt proceedings be filed against the Director of Prisons and the Prison Officer who refused to release his client, but actions will be taken with regards to damages.
So far this year, the High Court has ordered that three murder accused be granted bail, given the length of time they have been in custody without trial.