Sunday, January 21, 2018

Senator slams 'insensitive' cops


'embarrassment': Senator Pennelope Beckles speaks during yesterday's Senate debate at Tower D of the Waterfront Centre in Port of Spain. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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Opposition Senator Pennelope Beckles yesterday slammed the insensitivity and disrespect shown by the police to a rape victim who was allegedly turned away from the Morvant Police Station because she was naked after being attacked. Beckles called on National Security Minister John Sandy to investigate the matter.

The 23-year-old woman had been picked up by two good Samaritans after she was attacked, but the officer at the station refused her entry because she was naked.

He even refused to lend her his raincoat and she was forced to go to her home, get dressed and then return to the station to make a report of the rape, Beckles said, as she quoted from the story, carried in the Express of November 18.

Speaking in the Senate, Beckles said: "This was a serious indictment on all of us."

She said while not all police officers operated like this, this incident was "more than an embarrassment".

Beckles expressed her sympathy to the victim. She said she knew of instances where victims of domestic violence went to the station to make reports and were "raped" there.

Beckles said the incidence was particularly poignant in the context of the concerns raised by people like Senators Helen Drayton and Corinne Baptiste-McKnight about the provision in the DNA bill which requires a DNA sample to be taken from a rape victim by force.

Noting that senators had said this amounted to a second rape of the victim, Beckles said: "Imagine if the DNA bill is passed, as is, and this police officer, having been so disrespectful, insensitive and inhumane, is given the responsibility to act (in the securing of a DNA sample) under that bill."

Beckles chastised Justice Minister Herbert Volney for labelling as feminists those who raised concerns about the provision in the DNA bill.

"It was really shocking," she said. She called on Volney to apologise for the remark.

Deputy president Lyndira Oudit at this point advised Beckles to confine her contribution to the motion on the Police Service, especially since debate on the DNA bill was still pending.

Beckles said she was of the view that her comments on the DNA bill and Volney's remarks were relevant to the debate on the Police Service because it related to the treatment given to rape victims after their trauma.

"I am raising a matter in the newspaper, which clearly indicates that comments like these (Volney's) ought not to be accepted," she said.

Beckles contrasted the treatment given to the rape victim with preferential treatment given by the police to other people.

She referred to another article carried in the Express of November 18. She said on the day that police officer PC Derrick Badree was charged with rape, police officers locked the door of the courtroom and prevented the media from entering.

The story reported how officers laughed as the media took pictures of a man who, pretending to be Badree, covered his head and ran out of the courtroom. Badree was, in fact, allowed to leave through an entrance reserved for magistrates.

"You would understand my passion when women are being called feminists for raising such matters," she said.

"Could you imagine that the police are taking out someone who is committed to stand trial, they put another person (as a decoy) for the media, and the police officer (on the rape charge) has the power, authority and influence to pass where the magistrate does?" Beckles asked.

She also referred to the issue of marijuana being found in containers among frozen chicken.

She said in her years as an attorney, she knew that if drugs were found in a car, vessel or home, the owner of the property (car, vessel or home) must go to court and give an explanation.

"But within recent years, we have had an interesting development, where they are finding drugs in suitcases, in containers and they know who are the owners of the containers and somebody could give a defence, and they not even charged. They say 'hear what, somebody put that (drugs) in there'. That is (usually) your defence after you are charged. But it is amazing that people could say 'it is my container but it is not my coke' and they could go scot-free (without being charged)," Beckles said.