Chicken pox row stalls King Valley gang trial

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Chicken pox row stalls King Valley gang trial

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, February 29, 2020

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SUPERINTENDENT in charge of the Horizon Adult Remand Centre Albert Brown is disputing a report made to Chief Justice Bryan Sykes Thursday that correctional officers at that facility held police officers at ransom on the Spanish Town Road property after they refused to transport three of its inmates because one was suspected of having chicken pox.

The inmate, Derval Williams, who is one of the remaining six alleged members of the Westmoreland-based King Valley gang who have been on trial since February this year, was said to be exhibiting symptoms of the infection on Thursday.

When the trial judge entered at 10:00 Thursday morning, all six inmates were absent from the dock. The court was informed that the three inmates housed at the St Catherine correctional facility were within the precincts of the court but the three from the Horizon Remand facility, where Williams is housed, were absent. An officer informed the court that Williams was showing signs of chicken pox and had similar symptoms as those exhibited by another inmate at the facility the day before.

“They (the police) are refusing to carry these persons today,” the court was told. As a consequence, the officer said the correctional officers at the remand centre locked the gate and refused to allow the vehicle to leave the compound.

A clearly peeved Justice Sykes, who had earlier threatened to charge the superintendent with contempt of court, flayed the leadership at the facility for its action as described.

“That's poor leadership. That is stupidity in the highest order because if it is the persons are in custody and they are showing signs of what may be an illness, whether contagious or non-contagious, the proper thing to do is get a medical opinion and if it is the person has an illness, then treatment should be prescribed,” the trial judge noted.

“That's childishness of the highest order; clearly whoever is in charge out there has abandoned the place. It is simple: if the person is showing signs of illness, then a diagnosis should be had and depending on what is advised whether the inmate [is] to be isolated. I cannot see how that can lead to refusing [to allow] the police to leave the property because of this. How did we end up here? There is a serious lack of leadership out there,” he fumed.

Some moments later, after two of the earlier absent threesome appeared in the docks, Justice Sykes informed the court, “It appears that there may be a defendant in this case who may have an illness and we need to find out whether he has; and if he has, what he has and what are the recommendations for management of it. The correctional services are insisting that they take the person who is manifesting signs of the illness and the police are refusing, and so the correctional officers have prevented the vehicle from leaving the compound.”

Several more minutes elapsed before a prosecutor in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions indicated that checks had confirmed that “Mr Derval Williams certainly has chicken pox and communication is being prepared by the medical doctor to be brought to the court” and that the recommendation was that the inmate should not be brought to the court before two weeks expired.

Said Justice Sykes: “Gentlemen, one of your numbers, Mr Derval Williams, has been diagnosed with a communicable illness and it is expected he is to recover within 14 days. The court will not continue with the submissions from Mr Everton Bird in respect of Copeland Sankey (another of the accused). The accused is entitled to be present throughout the entire trial. Things may be said which may or may not concern him and he has a right to respond. Unfortunately, illness is not something we wish upon ourselves or can predict. The matter will be put off to give Mr Williams proper medical treatment in order that he can recover. I don't think he planned to be sick. Hopefully, we will all be in good health on the 16th of March.” He then adjourned the matter to that date.

When contacted by the Observer Thursday, Superintendent Brown said he was unaware of the other report of an infected inmate but had been told about Williams' case.

“I was not at work yesterday (Ash Wednesday). I have not as yet heard from the doctor about how many inmates may be infected or the recommendations, but the doctor wrote a letter and sent it to the Supreme Court. He was asked to deal with that inmate, and he did,” Superintendent Brown said.

When asked whether he had been brought up to speed about the diagnosis for Williams or the recommendations for the general prison population, he said, “I have not had a conversation with the medical orderlies as yet. I will definitely speak with them. Usually, the medical personnel would know exactly what is to be done but I have not been told how many persons and what is to be done. I will definitely hear from them because I would want to know.”

Asked about the report to the court which indicated that the police were prevented from leaving the compound because they refused to take the prisoners, Superintendent Brown said this was not the case.

“The police were not prevented from leaving; they can say that because we were not there to defend ourselves. They suspected him and didn't want to take the chance with him. He was slated to see the doctor but the doctor wasn't here at the time that the police was here. So the inspector from the Supreme Court came and decided that he should not go. So it was not a case that they were prevented from leaving. They had signed for him but suspected that he was not well and didn't want to take him, and afterwards the inspector came and said he should not go, and so they left,” he told the Observer.

He further invited the Observer to speak with Director of Medical Services for the Correctional Services Dr Donna Michelle Royer-Powe, noting that the details of the situation would have been communicated to her. However Dr Royer-Powe was said to be overseas and the Observer was advised that the doctor who had seen the inmate had already finished working for the day and would not be taking any calls related to the matter.

One well-placed source, however, told the Observer that it was reported that “several more prisoners have chicken pox”. The individual went on to insist that the report of the police being prevented from leaving the compound was in fact true. “The gate was locked to prevent the police from leaving,” the source said.

The trial of the six had resumed just Tuesday of this week after the illness of another accused Carlington Godfrey in early February forced it to adjourn for two weeks, as well.


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