Colwyn Harding sexual abuse matter…

Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell and part of his top brass

Assistant Superintendent among eight ranks transferred
– Brumell says lack of supervision allowed ordeal; probe to wrap up by Tuesday

POLICE Commissioner Leroy Brumell has confirmed that eight members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), besides Constable 19175 Devin Mahendra Singh, have been removed from the Timehri Police Station, East Bank Demerara.

Colwyn Harding as he lay helpless on his hospital bed
Colwyn Harding as he lay helpless on his hospital bed

Singh, who resides at Lot 125 Third Street, Mon Repos, ECD, was the first rank to be removed from the station and placed under close arrest following the sexual assault committed on 23-year-old Liang Avenue resident Colwyn Harding in November last year.
At a press conference called yesterday to clear the air, Commissioner Brumell addressed the concerns and questions of the media with respect to the sexual assault and torture of the young Harding while in police custody. Also present at that press conference were the Crime Chief, the Administration and Operations Officers, and the ‘A’ Division Commander, under whose supervision the Timehri Police Station falls.
Commissioner Brumell admitted that lack of supervision of Constable Singh caused the prisoner to be abused, but he promised that investigations into the matter would continue and several persons would be questioned, including police officers, court orderlies, prosecutors, medical staff, and persons who were simultaneously incarcerated with Harding.
He added that by Tuesday of next week, the Police Office of Professional Responsibilities (OPR) would complete investigating the matter and forward their findings to the Director of Public Persecutions (DPP) for advice.
The Commissioner said those ranks implicated in the matter and those who have been transferred have all denied that the 23-year-old Harding had been raped with a baton whilst in police custody. They have even denied that he had been assaulted whilst in custody.
Responding to queries as to why only on Monday — almost two months after the abuse of Harding — was the cop who had been fingered as the perpetrator of the assault placed on arrest, Commissioner Brumell said that when the matter was first reported, Harding was reported as having been “assaulted”. There was nothing to suggest that a baton had been used in the manner alleged, nor was the severity of the matter ventilated until Harding’s mother had spoken with ‘A’ Division Commander George Vyphius, who learnt the sordid details of the incident through a recording the woman played for him, wherein her son had detailed the ordeal of the abuse.
Brumell said he has respond to Harding’s attorney in respect to the one-hundred-million-dollar ($100M) compensation being sought.
He said he told the attorney that good sense should be allowed to prevail in this matter, and compensation should await completion of the investigation, including after the file would have been sent to, and returned from, the DPP.
Crime Chief Seelall Persaud noted there was a breach of the standard operating procedures at both the level of the GPF ranks who dealt with the matter initially and prison officers to whom the prisoner reported his abuse while on remand.
Despite the incident having occurred in November, Commander George Vyphius said, he knew nothing of the matter prior to being apprised by the commissioner. He pointing out that at the time he was alerted about the matter, he had just taken over operation of ‘A’ Division. It is not clear if the now deceased A Division Commander Derrick Josiah had been aware of the incident, and if any investigation had been underway.
Despite the ongoing investigation, the police have not yet visited Harding to get a statement from him. A statement was, however, taken from his mother, it has been reported.
The police top brass could not say if Constable Singh had ever previously been reprimanded for a similar act or for acts which can be considered unprofessional in conduct, given the nature of his job. However, they vowed that, during the investigations, checks would be made on all those details, and findings would be made public.
The police top brass could also not say why Constable Singh had been the only one placed on close arrest, when Harding, in his recording, would have identified other officers who were involved in his brutalization.
The GPF top brass have steadfastly denied that the process of charging a civilian is faster than what obtains in respect to a police officer. Crime Chief Seelall Persaud said charges are laid based on the statements and evidence gathered during an investigation. Things are done in stages.
Persaud has said the same procedures are applicable when investigating both civilians and police officers. He admitted, however, that it has become a practice that matters reported in the press tend to get faster attention, and investigations thereof tend to move a bit faster.
Since the occurrence of Harding’s alleged sexual abuse incident, many persons, including those from the Home Affairs Ministry, have come out in condemnation of the act, with the ministry describing the actions of some police personnel as being a mockery of the ongoing police reform process.

(By Leroy Smith)