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Corpun file 1433 at www.corpun.com
Daily Nation, Barbados, 31 August 1997
Call for probe into prison
St Vincent opposition wants enquiry after case against superintendent
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent - The opposition Unity Labour Party (ULP) has called for an enquiry into the prison system following a High Court judgement against prison superintendent Bernard Marksman.
"We need an inquiry into this matter not only into the way (that) prisoners are treated but the whole spectrum of the prison operations with regard to the conditions that exist there, the condition of the prisoners when they go out to work and the whole administration," party leader Vincent Beache said Thursday in the House of Assembly.
The court ruling triggered protests from concerned citizens, including several ex-convicts calling for the superintendent's removal from office.
Beache said his party was addressing the issue because of "the hue and cry" of the public and a desire to see that prison disturbances similar to those which took place in St. Lucia and Jamaica recently did not occur here.
"I am calling on the authorities to act now and act quickly to diffuse a situation that can get out of hand. I've never known us to have any prison riots in St Vincent (and) ... I say this because innocent people can get hurt and injured."
In his decision, High Court Judge Ian Mitchell ruled that the punishment handed down to a prisoner was unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful.
The judgment stemmed from a case which was brought by Human Rights Association president, Victor Cuffy on behalf of prisoner, Reynold Peters, who had received ten strokes with the cat-o'-nine-tails, was kept handcuffed and had his feet bound in leg irons for almost a year for breaking certain prison rules.
The court heard that attempts had been made by the authorities not to have the matter taken in court by coercing Peters to sign a document saying he had not given permission for Cuffy to take the matter up on his behalf.
"Having given this judgement the authorities have done nothing; the Superintendent of Prisons is still there," Beache said.
The government side had sought, through the Attorney-General Carl Joseph, not to have the matter raised.
Joseph said that since the government was considering an appeal of the judgement, the matter was "sub judice" and could therefore not be addressed.
But the speaker Monty Maule, pointed out that the standing orders allowed him certain discretion allowing matters of this nature to be heard once in his judgement they are not dealt with in a way that prejudices the parties involved. (CANA)
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