Officer in prison break case to know his fate today
The court will announce today, August 31, whether the prison officer charged with conspiring to bring about the escape from prison of accused murderer Veron Primus; is guilty or not.
The prisoner in question, Primus, has gained much public attention not only for the nature of the crimes that he allegedly committed against various women in different countries, but also because he has broken out of Her Majesty’s Prisons twice since he has been in custody.
Primus’ first prison break was on October 1, 2019. It occurred during the night, and his freedom lasted for less than 24 hours, as the inmate turned himself in to the police in the company of his counsel Jomo Thomas later that day.
Pleading guilty to the crime of escaping lawful custody, Primus was given a 16 month prison sentence.
Prison officer Louie Cupid, was charged in the same week as Primus, that he, between September 29 and October 1, being employed in the public service as a prison officer, did abuse the authority of his office, an arbitrary act, prejudicial to the rights of the Superintendent of Prisons, to wit conspired to aid the escape of Veron Primus.
Further, that he, between September 24 and October 2, at Her Majesty’s Prisons, did agree with Primus that a course of conduct should be pursued which if carried out would amount to the offence of escaping lawful custody.
The case has been progressing slowly, but was completed last Tuesday, August 25.
“In the criminal law there are two ways in which a criminal offence can be committed, by action or by omission,” Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche told Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne in his closing submissions.
“The defendant, he being a prison officer, was charged with the responsibility to ensure that the prisoners are kept at the prisons, under his watch. He had an overriding duty so to do. Not a voluntary act, not a favour. He was responsible for the safe custody of all the prisoners in the area that he had charge for,” the prosecution emphasised.
In the evidence presented, the court saw video footage taken from the prison of Primus escaping, and the days supposedly leading up to the escape; this footage did not reflect the correct date and time.
“Primus was not in prison according to the dates on the footages. That’s a known fact. The electronic devices that are used, they are manmade and they can malfunction…,” the senior prosecutor acknowledged. He noted “…that does not take away from the fact that it is known, we have evidence, we have viva voce evidence from the Superintendent of Prisons and other prison officers that Primus was a prisoner, the defendant was a prison officer.”
He said that what the footage shows “is that this defendant was at a desk at the prison and Veron Primus was also there,” during which time the two had “an interaction.”
The investigation into the escape was undertaken by Assistant Superintendent of Police(ASP) Elgin Richards, who leads the Major Crimes Unit(MCU), and his team consisted of Sergeant Biorn Duncan, who Delpesche said was in his opinion, “the most efficient investigator this country has…”
During the early stages of the investigation Cupid apparently decided he wanted to speak with Duncan, and Duncan “as professional as he is” decided to make a note of this.
“That shows the professionalism of the man. He didn’t depend on his memory, he didn’t go to the diary. He write it down, used the caution, read it back, had it endorsed by the defendant,” the prosecutor said.
Delplesche relied on this statement, quoting it at length.
“Officer Duncan, let me tell you the truth. I assisted Veron Primus to leave the prison, and I did not give him no key to the cell,” Cupid is alleged to have admitted.
“Last week Monday, I work the three to eleven shift in the evening. While I was at work Veron told me that he wanted to leave the prison, he wanted to go out. I don’t know what his intentions were outside, he told me he wanted to go out and he wanted me to help him escape. I did not give him a positive answer,” the prosecutor read.
Delplesche told the magistrate, “An inmate at the prison is telling a prison officer he wants to escape, the prison officer who has a duty to make sure the prisoner ain’t escape, did nothing. Here it is, a prisoner on remand for murder is telling the prison officer I want to escape…”
Cupid supposedly told Primus that if he wanted to escape he would have to come up with a plan of his own and “go through with it.” The prison officer also apparently told Duncan that during his September 29 shift, when Veron was in his prison cell, he told the prison officer that he was ready to leave.
“I told him he can leave however he wants, that is up to him.” Delplesche quoted Cupid, commenting to the judicial officer, “Isn’t that tantamount to conspiracy your honour?”
There was another statement submitted by the defence, written not by Cupid, but orated to another prison officer, that speaks nothing of what is in the statement to Sergeant Duncan. However, that statement could not be “tested” by the prosecution under cross examination.
Delplesche submitted that the defence, by their witnesses, had not ‘negatived ‘the prosecution’s case nor advanced their own case. The senior prosecutor concluded that the state has proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
However, counsel for the defence, Grant Connell, posited that the prosecution failed to prove their case.
He focused on the investigation carried out by ASP Richards.
“Given the office he holds, head of the MCU, in his wisdom, when counsel Jomo Thomas brought Primus to the station, (Primus), having surrendered to the authorities voluntarily, was asked if he had anything to say about that charge, escaping lawful custody, and he had nothing to say. ASP Elgin Richards never questioned him about Louie Cupid or this charge,” the lawyer claimed.
He said that in his evidence the investigator did not refer to the statement made by Cupid that had been taken down by a prison officer, who had apparently been allowed to do so by the Superintendent of Prisons.
Connell pointed out that this statement was at variance to the one given to the police, which his client had questioned.
The statement given to the prison officer, “…was read in court, it was tendered, and speaks of (Cupid) being at the dormitory, a note on his cell, going back at 6:30, monitoring the prisons… Veron Primus does not come out. No admission to any agreement, or other,” the lawyer said.
The counsel also touched on the video footage with the wrong dates.
“..The court must note that one of the videos is in daylight. Was that the morning of the escape? It shows Louie Cupid, but the prosecution did not verify what day that was,” he commented, “…It must also be noted that several cells were open and prisoners were walking to and fro, up and down, broomstick carry that way, slop bucket the other way…”
He questioned what documentary evidence the court had before it to show that the prosecution was not on a fishing expedition “taking videos and dates out of a hat.”
“None of the documentation was presented to you, none whatsoever. So the video evidence itself, that they alleged is Louie Cupid, cannot at this juncture, not be riddled with doubt.”
A “crucial” element in proving conspiracy, would be agreement, Connell noted. The defence said that there could not be considered to be a common design. Cupid’s supposed statement to the police spoke of a plan that Primus had intended, “Not ‘our’ plan. So at this juncture, the court has to see if, from that exchange, if further action is made in furtherance of the alleged common design…”
The prison officer, according to the prosecution’s evidence, did not offer help to Primus, the lawyer said.
The prisons are supposed to keep diaries which detail the events during their shifts. The defence wanted the diaries to be disclosed to them, but Connell said that the ASP “say he could not find them, he could not locate them, that he never saw them.” He juxtaposed this with the Superintendent of Prisons who gave evidence which suggested that diaries should have been there. The attorney submitted that this should then go in his client’s favour.
Connell concluded that the state failed to, or refused to investigate the matter “properly” and that the evidence of conspiracy has not been fulfilled(the two charges are linked).
The decision was reserved for today, August 31.