Renowned lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste is calling on Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Commissioner of Police Colin John and Director of Public Prosecutions Sejilla Mc Dowall to put a ban on the use of chokeholds by police on citizens.
The call follows the choking of Carly John, opposition senator Shevorn John’s husband, by police constable Verrol Sam during a protest in Kingstown last Thursday.
Bacchus-Baptiste quoted Wikipedia’s explanation of a chokehold which says it is “a general term for a grappling hold that critically reduces or prevents either air (choking) or blood (strangling) from passing through the neck of an opponent.’”
According to Wikipedia, the restriction may be of one or both and depends on the hold used and the reaction of the victim. While the time it takes for the choke to render an opponent unconscious varies depending on the type of choke, the average across all has been recorded as 9 seconds. The lack of blood or air often leads to unconsciousness or even death.
“I am therefore calling on the honourable Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the Commissioner of Police Colin John and the Director of Public Prosecutions Sejilla Mc Dowall to immediately, unreservedly condemn and abolish any choke holding of citizens by police,” Bacchus-Baptiste said at a media conference at her law chambers on Tuesday afternoon.
The call for the condemnation and abolition of the chokehold was one of a number of requests made in a letter issued to the named parties.
Bacchus-Baptiste further requests: that there be an investigation into the matter and maximum charges be brought against police constable Verrol Sam leading to his dismissal from the police force; that there be a liaison with the Attorney General to adequately compensate Carly John for his injuries and loss; that a statement is released reinforcing the provisions of the Police Act and Regulations she referred to, demanding that all police officers strictly adhere to them or face the consequences; that “the spate of spurious charges levied against protesters” for exercising their right to demonstrate be condemned and that criminal charges must not be used as a means to intimidate and stifle lawful protests.
Bacchus-Baptiste has also requested that the named parties acknowledge receipt of the letter and effectively respond to her within seven days.