RAPE VICTIM GETS JUSTICE
(The following story might not be suitable for everyone. The content is mildly graphic.)
Judge Shona Griffith is leaving the Supreme Court of Belize. She leaves to serve in a higher position in our sister country of Barbados. We wish her all the best.
Judge Griffith delivered a historic decision on Tuesday 7th January, 2020. She had heard oral arguments, read written submissions and researched the many legal cases urged in support of both sides of the matter.
That matter goes back to November 2017. There was a young prisoner 19 or 20 years of age. He was denied bail by a District Court for an allegation which is bailable under the law. Coming from a poor family, he could not afford a lawyer to obtain bail from the Supreme Court.
So, like so many of our poor young men he languished in prison to await a trial. He eventually got into a confrontation with a prisoner and was arbitrarily punished. Off to Ad Seg for him. Ad Seg is Administrative Segregation, a euphemism for harsh, inhumane treatment in a dungeon building. No privilege, no coming outside, no visits from loved ones.
The victim, while he was on remand, who was subjected to this cruel and unconstitutional treatment for months, has sued the prison and the government. We wish him success. We wish the Supreme Court punish the prison authorities with huge fines and aggravated compensations.
The 19 year old was placed in a punishment cell with a former convicted prisoner. One night a horrible nightmare descended on him. While he slept on the cement floor he was rudely awakened. The other prisoner had sneaked from behind (no pun intended) and had the young man’s neck in a choke-hold. He lost consciousness for a few moments and regained consciousness only to find an animal savagely raping him. He felt a wave of weakness wash over him. He said he could barely move. It had to be a bad, bad dream.
But the pain was real and in the darkness he could smell and feel the blood pouring down his legs. Oh God! this wasn’t really be happening. After what seemed like an eternity, morning arrived. He had used all the toilet paper trying to stop the bleeding. He watched Cooke across the cell. No words ever exchanged. Eventually Warden Monzon came on his rounds. Immediately the young man begged him to take him to the prison doctor as Cooke had ‘chanced’ him and ‘his batty di bun like fire’[sic]. In Court he repeated those words to Judge Shona Griffith.
Warden Monzon found that situation funny and was giggling and discussing with the rapist. The young man was not taken out of the cell or taken to the doctor. In Court Monzon told a lie that the young did not report the attack to him. He admitted that in the evening he took ibuprofen pain pills to the young man because the young man had a toothache.
The second night he decided he was not going to sleep. Although in terrible pain he tried his best to stay awake. It was the longest night he ever lived. But alas! towards morning he dozed off.
Cooke was quick and professional. He had the young man in his choke-hold, as the young man passed out, his pants was off and he was sodomized again. This time the young man decided to kill the sodomite. He grabbed the broom and started to whap like crazy. Cooke who was 43 years and a bit muscular was able to grab the young who was a ‘mauga’ person and they began to fight. This is how the wardens had to resort to pepper-spray and forced to part the fight. This is how the young man was moved to another cell.
Some days after, a lawyer had been to the prison to visit a client. Leaving after 5:30 p.m., a family was waiting for him. They told him to help them as they were being prevented from visiting their son. He gave them a lift back to Belize City and the next day arranged for a visit. They saw their son under supervision of three prison officers. He was told to mention that he was only in a fight. But he told his Mom and Dad what happened. The Dad went back to the lawyer and this is how God works in a mysterious way.
Quickly the young man got bail. Then the Police got involved. Corporal Pascasio investigated, the doctor confirmed, and Cooke was charged. He is before Judge Colin Williams and Riis Cattouse is the Prosecutor.
In the history of Belize no prisoner or former prisoner has ever come public to say he was raped in prison. It is hoped that this act of bravery will go a long to save other young men from the horrors of being a rape victim.
The prison authorities told the Supreme Court an untruth. They said that for the past 16 years there has never been a rape in the prison. There is some truth to this. In all prisons there are prison rapes and ‘battyism.’ Prison rapes are rarely reported. That does not mean that they do not happen. Also, there is hardly any need to rape as there are enough consenting gays available. There is a distinction between consenting males and predators who attack other prisoners.
Following an Amandala news report on this same ongoing trial, two families have approached the lawyers concerning their sons who have been raped in prison. Secondly, there are prison officers who are claiming that the said rapist has attacked other young men in prison. It is a pity this information was not before the Supreme Court.
Judge Griffith in handing down her decision said she did not believe Warden Monzon and she gave reasons. She stated she believed the young man, and she gave cogent reasons. No appeal Court could fault these.
The judge ruled that the prison could not be faulted for the first rape as Cooke was not known as a predator. But for the second rape the failure to protect the young man was negligence and the prison and government are liable and must pay the young man. That amount may be finalized next month as it is unlikely this worthless government will settle.
In the interest of justice that amount should be no less than four to five hundred thousand dollars.
As for the young man, his life is ruined. He is not sleeping well. He is imagining things and need psychiatric help. He has tried to kill himself. He wants someone to kill his attacker. He has lost his girlfriend when she found out and the streets are alleging the attacker has AIDS.
Attorney Anthony Sylvester who did the research and presented the successful arguments has shown once again he is the man. The champion of the downtrodden. Judge Griffith paid him a special respect by acknowledging his research was particularly helpful and especially a case law from South Africa which was almost on all fours with the one she was deciding. Which is a rarity as prison rapes are different in their circumstances.
Big respect Anthony.