Attorney General, Levi Peter, says the state is doing all that it can “reasonably” do in the circumstances to address the death of Joshua Etienne in police custody last August.
He described the incident as “regrettable” and “unacceptable.”
Peters was addressing a press conference held in the conference room of the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday.
“As you will be aware on about the 5th of August 2014, we experienced in Dominica the regrettable and unacceptable event of the death of a person namely Joshua Etienne in police custody,” he said. “The main purpose of my address this morning is to point out and reemphasize the fact that the state and the government is doing all that it can reasonably do in the circumstances to address this matter and to see that the system of justice works in the way that it should do.”
However, he took a shot at those he said wanted to used the matter to spread false information.
He said in August 2014, he addressed the media and said that a judicial review was to take place and to explain how the process was likely to un-fold as it relates to those proceedings and beyond.
“You will also recall that I gave the assurance that the state and this government were proceeding to address this matter in accordance to the principles of the rule of law and that any claims of cover up or other improper actions on behalf of the state and the government in this matter were entirely misplaced,” the Attorney General stated. “Regrettably it would appear that in some quarters there are those who, despite the clear evidence before their eyes, are determined to persist in muddying the waters and spread misinformation, confusion and strife in this land.”
He informed that the rule of law means also that all the accused are innocent until and unless they are proven guilty by a lawfully constituted court.
He said whatever personal opinions maybe as to the guilt or otherwise of the accused officers, it must be understood that they are entitled to utilize every legitimate process of law in seeking to exercise their rights.
Peters admitted that “on occasions that may prove frustrating to observers and more particularly to relatives and [those] close to the deceased.”
“That sentiment is entirely understandable in those circumstances. However if we are to respect, adhere to and maintain the rule of law which as a nation we must that is part of the price that we have to pay,” he said.
To further drive his point home, he said to those who are asking what has the state and government done to give this assurance that he is giving, “I pose this question in return : adhering to the principles of the rule of law what more is it that the state and the government could have done in this case that they have not done?”
He said a cursory perusal of a chronology of events would demonstrate that not only has the state acted “expeditiously, but it has acted robustly as reasonably practicable in the circumstances in protecting the public interest and the rule of law.”
Etienne was found dead in police cells in Portsmouth on July 4, 2014, one day after he was arrested for alleged ammunition possession.
An autopsy on his body revealed serious injuries including several broken bones and a punctured organ, among others.