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Former health minister Burton Williams returns to court today

Former health minister Burton Williams returns to court today

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Four more witnesses are expected to testify today, in a case in which former parliamentarian Burton Williams is being tried at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.{{more}}

As proceedings continued on Tuesday, Sergeant 492 Ornal Jacobs, told the court that he drew his pistol and pointed it at persons who were using a barricade to force their way through the main gate to the House of Assembly.

Williams faces charges that within the precincts of the House of Assembly, he behaved in a manner in which a breach of peace was likely to be occasioned contrary to section 15 of the Public Order Act, Chapter 396.

Williams, who unsuccessfully contested the South Windward seat for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the December 13, 2010 general elections, is also accused of attempting to damage property.

On January 28, 2011, the day in question, the NDP was staging a march and rally in protest of the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Code 2011 Bill which was being read in Parliament.

Jacobs, a member of the Special Services Unit (SSU), testified that on that day, he and other members of the Unit were dispatched to Kingstown where Parliament was in session at the High Court building.

On arrival, Jacobs said he met a large crowd gathered between the court house and the Building and Loan building and also along the main road. Jacobs said he observed a truck parked just opposite the Building and Loan building.

“There were steel barriers on both sides of the road. I went to place men (police officers) into position when I heard Mr Williams speaking on the truck’s PA system encouraging the crowd to storm Parliament and stop proceedings that were taking place in the House…” Jacobs recounted.

“I recognised the voice of the Mr Williams because he is my cousin…”

Jacobs said he left where he was standing and headed towards the main gate where he met Station Sergeant Samuel.

“I informed him of what was likely to happen. At that time, persons had already started moving towards the gate…”

Jacobs said he and other police officers closed the main gate and while attempting to do so, persons held onto the gate and started pushing it inwards.

He said Williams was one of the persons who advanced to the gate with one of the barricades, striking it and pushing it in.

He added that the crowd was “aggressive” and “very vocal” at the time.

“…Realising injuries could have come to us, I drew my pistol, pointed it at them and told them to stop…”

Jacobs said representative for Central Kingstown, NDP parliamentarian St Clair Leacock, came to the scene and spoke to the protesters.

“They then calmed down, placed the bars on the ground and walked away.”

Asked by prosecutor Colin John why he did not arrest Williams, Jacobs replied, “I felt it would have aggravated them (crowd) more and could have escalated into violence.”

Under cross-examination, defence counsel Andreas Coombs asked Jacobs what were some of the words used by Williams, who was a minister of government in the former NDP administration, over the PA system.

“He was first speaking about the Venezuelan ship in the ocean. He said the bills in parliament, we must stop it. We have to go inside dey and stop them from passing those bills,” Jacobs answered.

“Was it not your duty to speak to Mr Williams in order to prevent any possible breach of peace?” Coombs asked.

“I was not in a position at the time. I was placing the officers in their respective points and was focusing on securing parliament,” replied Jacobs.

In her testimony, Detective Corporal Wilma Black-Williams said she was patrolling the yard of the High Court building when she heard protesters shouting “Kill the bills, kill the bills”.

Black-Williams said she then stood near to the truck where Williams was and listened to him speaking for about two minutes.

“As as result of what I heard, I became concerned and went back to the courthouse yard. He was asking protesters to gather where he was standing … He said he has to do something to stop this. He said ‘they are trying to provoke and frustrate you’. The Parliament is your house, this is not Ralph (Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves) house. We have to take over the house. Everyone, let’s take over the house. We have to kill the bill…” Black-Williams said.

The detective said Williams left where he was standing and proceeded to the main gate that leads to the High Court.

“On reaching the police barricade, he began to trample the barricades along with other protesters. After doing so, he took one of the barricades, along with several protesters and began to ram the supreme court gate … They were behaving violently…”

Senior Magistrate Donald Browne is presiding . (KW)

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