UK attorney thinks independent body should investigate deaths in state custody

Thomas has been representing families of those who die in police custody
Thomas has been representing the families of those who die in police custody

A 26-year veteran in the area of inquest laws has opined that an independent body, not the police themselves, should be investigating any cases of death in state custody.

Dr. Leslie Thomas QC, of the Garden Court Chambers in London is here in Dominica and made the remarks at a press conference in light of the death of Joshua Etienne of Picard at the Portsmouth Police Station.

Thomas, who has Dominican roots, said although he has not been thoroughly briefed on the case, there must be transparency and independence in the investigation of matters of such nature.

“I understand when you are a small country with limited resource and also when deaths in custody are rare, it is very difficult to have a body full time on hand 24/7 to investigate these deaths,” he said.

He said this is the case with the Independent Police Complaints Commission in the United Kingdom, noting there need to be transparency in such deaths.

“So for instance you would hope that in a death in custody case, the first thing that is really important is the preservation of evidence,” Thomas said. “But one of the things that you want to do is to ensure that Officers from the same station were not involved in investigating themselves.”

He also noted that there “might even be a consideration of bringing in, maybe, outside officers from a different island to assist in the investigation to give it that injection of independence.”

He, however, admitted this may be met with “some resistance and difficulty,” since the police may argue that they have done nothing wrong.

Thomas is also in suggesting a temporary closure of the Portsmouth Police Station for the purpose of gathering evidence.

On the matter of the charges not being read in court to the five officers allegedly involved in the Etienne’s case, Thomas said in all his years of practice he has not seen anything like that in the UK.

“It might be unusual but unusual doesn’t mean it was wrong,” adding that he do not have sufficient knowledge of the matter to give a more in-depth analysis.

He pointed out that the death of anyone in custody of the law raises questions and the police should not be feel threatened “if these questions are asked of them.”

He also noted that the gathering of evidence early in the investigation is important.

“It is important that evidence is preserved very early on,” Thomas stated. “Once evidence is lost you can never get it back, it means that the search for the truth becomes even more difficult.

He noted that once this occur, the cloud of suspicion hanging over the heads of those alleged to have perpetrated the crime will never be cleared.

Thomas said an independent body or as near independent body will be able to seize “very early on” the evidence and to take statements, good forensics, make sure the pathology is not delayed or that there is a second pathology as a back up.

Thomas father is from Marigot and he has made his name in the UK representing the families of persons who have died in police custody or bring civil action against the police.

He is part of a panel in a dialogue on Thursday evening in Portsmouth called “Citizens’ Security and the Police.”

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51 Comments

  1. The Facts
    August 27, 2014

    DNO this person who harasses me on your Website is at it again and presumably under a different name.
    I am once again asking you to scrutinize such comments which are sent to your Website and which attack others. You should be aware that what this person is doing is illegal, in that, making derogatory and hateful comments at me. It appears that this person whom I do not know has hatred for me. I live a peaceful life. I do not get myself in trouble with people. Why then does this person take it upon him/herself and spew words at me underneath my comments? .Furthermore, this person is violating your Website’s regulations.
    I will be making a formal complaint about this to Law authorities. I am reiterating that you not allow such comments which serve no useful purpose and are not related to the article and any comments on your Website be prohibited.
    You have not posted all my comments which could teach people something good and godly but you post such a harassing comment. I am unable to comprehend that the one who moderates the writing allows it.
    If I owned a Website or if I were the one involved in moderating those writings, such a comment I would disallow. Trash it! You trash my good writings Why do you not trash this harassing comment?
    You allowed this person’s comments and you do not leave “Comments” opened for me to comment. When I respond to this person you do not keep my comment posting. You are not being fair to me.
    I am, once again, requesting that you scrutinize the comments which are sent to your Website. Comments such as this so-called Sandra should not be posted. If it keeps recurring, I will go public with it.
    This is the writing directed at me underneath what I wrote: This person changes name. However, a type of comment as that should be prohibited.

    Now I wish to inform you that I do not write under the name “furious”. This is someone else. You should know that. This person, so-called Sandra is one crazy/mad, tormented person, one who cannot live at peace and will not allow others to live at peace. This is a typical example.
    You should prohibit this person from your Website or at least such comments. This person will cause you to lose readers and those who access your Website. Due to this, your Website name and you, the owner/management will be scandalized, causing you to lose business. You should take this matter seriously also for the good of your business. Do not say I did not warn you and more than once.
    I deserve an explanation and an apology from your office.

    Sandra August 21, 2014

    From jutice to truth, to furious, to fact now unbelievable, you can change your name as much as you want. The very same way snakes changes their skin, changing your fake name will not work, God’s name is not only for sinners like you to use, you also need to stop calling God’s name in all your mumbo jumbo jutice furious fact

  2. The Facts
    August 26, 2014

    Sandra, you are another one who uses DNO to spew your frustrations and hatred at others. DNO should not allow such comments directed at those who access its Website. Did DNO miss this one?
    I am not your friend. Noting your words, I do not want you as a friend. You have depicted that you are one unhappy person. You need the grace of God.
    It is none of your business if I change names. Learn to mind your own business. Imagine scrutinizing DNO for my writing. Do you not have anything better to do with your time? I have no time for miserable people as you. Others change names and much more than I do. Why do you make it your business to search for my writing? What has it got to do with you? You are one sick, crazy person who needs to see a psychiatrist.
    I am certain you have changed names thousands of time. Why then does it concern you that you scrutinize DNO’s postings to find mine?
    It is my business if I feel to change my name or not. You must be the one who writes under the name of a man and have changed this name more than once. You are a big-time hypocrite. The pot always calls the kettle black.
    What do you have against me? What have I done to you and against you? Why on this Website? Is DNO’s Website to be used to spew hatred against users/readers? Why does DNO not prohibit your comments?
    What do you have against God? You want to suppress me from mentioning the Name of God? God will not allow it. He will make me do exactly what He wants me to do. Do you not know that God has taken note of what you have stated as imbedded in your heart? This will be part of your punishment.
    You are one wicked person and even against people you do not know and against God and His Word. What will be your lot when you die including as you live and as you age if you continue in this manner? Is it any wonder your words are bitter and attacking? You lack love and peace. Because you are miserable, you try to make others miserable and to bring them down. You will never succeed for “If God is for me who can be against me?
    Our Lord said, “who is not for him is against him.” It is obvious that you are against Our Lord and His Word. You will pay for it. You may be paying for it right now due to your words of hatred. You are a restless person who has no peace.
    People do not have to be insulted like that. I am asking DNO to watch out for writings as yours attacking me on its Website. It is not fair to me. I deserve better than that. I do not need that. It is harassment and persecution. If you continue, I will bring a charge against DNO for allowing such comments. DNO will find you. The authorities will find you.
    Your heart is full of hatred. How sad for you. I feel sorry for you. You are the devil’s advocate.
    Read DNO’s terms and regulations for those who access this Website. You are violating it.
    It is also illegal to harass and persecute people on a Website. It is bullying. There is a Law against it. I will inform the police about it and make a formal complaint..

  3. Mr. Deligent
    August 22, 2014

    Only one professional spoke and you all getting scared. In Dominican’s language you cannot kick against the prick. The most you can do is listen,watch and learn. Dominica is global.It cost a lot of money to train a policeman. There are vacancies in the Police but cannot get men with courage to join.

  4. Anonymous
    August 22, 2014

    This guy is one of Rosie’s manyyyyyyy children. stark resemblance. DNA…

  5. Truth be Told
    August 22, 2014

    My advice to you my brother is to get out of Dominica as soon as you can. Dominicans do not like independent, professionally minded people telling them better. They love their laboo and ignorance and they will try to draw you into their political kaka because that is what Dominica has become today, political kaka! Leave them in their laboo and run back to England! Go back and meet the other Dominican magistrate and Dominican attorney general in UK. Leave Tony Astaphan country alone!

    • Gary
      August 24, 2014

      Wow, Arrogance is a creature, it does not have senses
      It has only a sharp tongue and the pointing finger, very sad.

  6. listener
    August 22, 2014

    As far as I am concerned I want to see justice prevail in this case, but way down inside I know if justice isn’t served in the court but it will be served by Jushua’s blood cause no body should be treated this way, Jushua I know you died miserably so please hunt these murderers every one involved wicked bastards.

  7. Mr. Deligent
    August 22, 2014

    Doc. you are a God send! I maintained all along, firstly, the Police should be disciplined and suspended, Secondly! you confiscate their badges etc. pending further inquiries.This at least would show the family that you are taking action. So we have put the cart before the horse here some called it limbo.Mr. Lennox Lwrance had a point . Hands off from our peace makers and have Respect for the law

  8. Anonymous
    August 22, 2014

    Tell me, Dr Thomas, what is your stand on buggery laws? Or are you saving that revelation for your next visit?

  9. Anonymous
    August 22, 2014

    Well said! This what I have been saying.

  10. Gerald La Touche JP
    August 22, 2014

    Dr Les being in Dominica on vacation at this moment is a God sent. I know personally his love for Dominica and the Caribbean generally as both parents are from the Caribbean. So I also know that he will be very disappointed in the judicial mess that Dominica has become over the past decade. Dominicans who love their country after God, should listen to Dr. Leslie Thomas QC. Hopefully his observations while on vacation of the dire judicial situation in Dominica may prompt him to play a more active role, which I tried to encourage sometime ago – for he could certainly make a profound difference in the system. Godspeed Leslie.

  11. cj
    August 21, 2014

    I’m really sadden by this news. I have many friends in the police force I know since we were teens, and base on what I remember, they are all good people. That being said, I’m hoping that the justice department will conduct a proper and impartial inquiry, which should bring some clarity to the case at hand, most importantly to family, and ultimately the public will gain what ever trust that’s left in the police. I’m going on a limb here, but my hope is one day we will have an OECS internal affairs to conduct police misconduct in all member country. My prayer goes out to the family of the victim, and also the families of the officers involve, because these families all have to deal with the pain of some one such tragedy.

  12. Anonymous
    August 21, 2014

    I really love courageous people! And courageous people stand for truth and what is right! All these are truthful words and behanzin said the very like he is saying! Jehovah is a lover of justice and joshua ettienne has to get justice! The hearers of the law are not the ones righteous before God , but the doers of law will be declared righteous!

  13. shaka zulu
    August 21, 2014

    That’s the most intelligent comment on the matter that I have seen from any lawyer speaking on the case. What impress me most is your response on the magistrates decision. Sometimes decisions are unusual but not necessarily wrong. It is all about time place and circumstances. Some people need to realize that before they start running their mouths.

    They have qualified investigators in Dominica who could have been used. Duke retired and would make perfect investigator for a case like that. Duke if you read this its probably time you start your own PI firm. Get license. I know a ton of people would use you.

    On another note. Forensics is a science and our police ain’t ready yet. I have said here before we have to change the structure of the force and pay scale. We need trained accountants, lawyers computer scientists and natural scientists who are policemen. Its a changing world. Some people who could not pass basic maths in high school working in FIU. How you going to investigate fraud when the ones doing it more intelligent than you. Look at how we behave in situation above. We have a long way to go.

  14. Julie
    August 21, 2014

    Well said

  15. Unbelievable
    August 21, 2014

    I endorse everything that Thomas stated. D/ca being a small country, it will take time to establish such an independent investigative body. The public in Toronto, Canada for that matter, some interest groups were successful in advocating that the police should not investigate themselves in the case where people died in their custody.
    This has not been the norm in D/ca. I expect, in time one will be established. I am confident sooner or later this will be done. Patience!

    • Anonymous
      August 22, 2014

      Maybe we can bring that notion to the ultimate level but concluding that humans ought not to be investigating themselves.

  16. da2debone
    August 21, 2014

    like the WEB SAID IN HIS SONG “SON OF A GONE THEY MUST BE FATHER AND SON”. I might be wrong but this man looks like a Douglas. I rest my case by to the story at hand Dr Thomas i agree with you but who is going to do the private investigation? lets see if they will take your advice. still innocent until proven guilty.

  17. Bernard Wiltshire
    August 21, 2014

    It was good of DNO to report the comments of Dr. LeslieThomas regarding the death in police custody of Joshua Etienne. It should be said that it is a matter of pure coincidence that that sad event happened at the same time as Dr. Thomas’ brief vacation visit. As the DNO article says Dr. Thomas has become perhaps the foremost legal experts in the UK on matters dealing with such death in police custody.

    The point of the interview was to introduce him to a wider public as a dinguished person of Dominican descent whose father, Godfrey Thomas, was from Marigot, and as an example of the impact that our people are capable of makigng abroad. Dr. Thomas has recently been elevated to the front ranks of the English legal establishment in the UK by being made a QC or what we call here Leading Connsel. To undrstand the achievement you have to understand the huge obstacles that still stand in the way of an ambitious and conscientious young black person in England and therefore of the significance of the personal achievement this represents not just for Dr. Thomas alone, but the community from which he sprang.

    There is hardly a significant case involving death im police custody today in the UK that Dr. Thomas would not be considered a frontline likelihood for the defence of public right. He has just completed the case of Mark Duggan who was killed by police in 2011 and whose death sparked off major popular disturbances in the country. At present he is among counsel on the year- long matter of the terrible Hillsborough Football Stadium disaster which resulted in 96 deaths and a subsequent cover-up by police of staggering proportions. He has been voted “Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year” by the Legal Aid Practitioners Association and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by a UK University.

    Dr. Thomas has been called to the Dominican Bar. He visits with his 16 year old son, Isaac, who has just achieved a cluster of “A” grades in his GCEs and who fully appreciates his Dominican roots and intends to share in his heritage.

    I wouldn’t like the public to think that Dr. Thomas was in any way involved in our own case here, at least not yet, but his general remarks on how these matters should be dealt with as a matter of best practice, provided valuable advice which could benefit our own investigation here.

    • Anonymous
      August 21, 2014

      stupessssss

    • Anonymous
      August 22, 2014

      I am trying to understand why 2 people have disliked this comment? I don’t find anything in it to warrant a “thumbs down”…except maybe that some people can’t look past the PERSON who made the comment…? Are we really that prejudiced??

    • Anonymous
      August 22, 2014

      Once he don’t tell us to legalize homosexual behavior as in the UK, we cool!

    • KBCR
      August 22, 2014

      Thank you Mr. Wiltshire on behalf of those of us who saw this gentleman on the local television news and were wondering about him.
      Your laying out of his credentials should have been done by the staff of DNO, but nevertheless, we appreciate you taking the time out to enlighten we the curious.

      Once again, thank you.

  18. Lawrence Ettienne
    August 21, 2014

    Dr. THomas, you have set the records so straight that I can only hope the eyes of all persons involved, can take a look at this report. From all indication, the investigation has already been flawed by the inconsistencies as out lined by your expertise. They will not support an Independent body to investigate this matter because of an already corrupt system, and has its roots embedded in corruption itself.
    I can only hope for a Devine intervention that will overthrow the foundation of those rooted evil, even if it involves the very lives of the orchestrator. Sad day indeed for us who live on this so called Isle of Beauty. Have your way Lord.

  19. JoJo
    August 21, 2014

    I’m glad Dr. Thomas spoke. He has no axe to grind here. You can not have alleged perpetrators having investigating themselves an expect an impartial outcome. Even if it were fair , public opinion would always question it.

  20. Miss Thing
    August 21, 2014

    Dr Thomas

    Your comments are most valuable . However, Dominica does not recognise transparency or due diligence.

    Operations are clandestine and wholly dubious.

    There will be no independent review as the powers in Dominica do not believe that they have to exercise due diligence to any of their actions.

    It is a very sad state of affairs.

  21. INTERESTED
    August 21, 2014

    Dr Thomas. I know your work and perhaps you could arrange a meeting with the esteemed PM or perhaps write to him expressing your views which are, of course, absolutely spot on. I refuse to believe that he will not seriously consider and hopefully actions what you are suggesting, given that he cannot fail to recognise that the Chambers from which you practice is one which is at the forefront of protecting human rights and all anyone need to if in doubt is to check out Garden Court Chambers in London on the internet – an impressive set so please please address the PM directly on this issue but please ensure that his so called advisers are not present because it is they who are the cause of the ugliness of this calamity.

  22. citizen
    August 21, 2014

    Mr Thomas can you tell us who investigates cases of this nature in the United Kingdom.And did you address this situation in the Ferguson case in the US

  23. Doc. Love
    August 21, 2014

    Hey Doc, I hope you don’t have any skeletons in your closet. If you are wondering what I am talking about, ask Dr. Savarin, Dr. Shillingford, Dr. Fontaine and Dr. Pascal.

    • Aimless
      August 21, 2014

      Did you mean Dr. Severin?

    • Mamizoo
      August 22, 2014

      Just typical Laborite.You sound so darn stupid. The MO of you Laborite tontor mskoute is to protect corruption and to search and destroy anyone who speak truth to power. What is even more amazing is the fact that you throw stones while everyone is looking at you from your glass houses. You guys are the biggest thieves, the most disgraceful liars, attempted murderers, money luanderers, sexual offenders and sutiweres.
      No wonder your base is strictly the conveniently blind, ignoramus, people bent on destroying the truth by any means. Ithe is people like you that give credence to Danny Lugsy’a statement. Which ever one it is

      • Doc. Love
        August 22, 2014

        Doc. Love, a laborite, you cannot be reading my comments. My comments were mere sarcasm.

    • KBCR
      August 22, 2014

      Hmm…funnily enough all of these men you trying to smear are either Medical Doctors or Ph.d…I wonder what are your credentials? :mrgreen:

      • JoJo
        August 22, 2014

        That is just another creep using Doc. Love’s blogging handle. How pathetic.

  24. August 21, 2014

    Their lol !my bad

  25. August 21, 2014

    Ahfouahwee roots
    LL Prevost Eddo et Al must be feeling ire!

  26. police brutality
    August 21, 2014

    police in DOMINICA think they are above the law, no law no constitution, you will hear the saying over and over again, because it was said by our prime minister skerrit, he also said in the parliament Dominican are too free madam speaker. and go to hell to the Dominican people when a question was ask of him. a cannot believe this man is still head of state, well we know the last election was stolen

  27. already said
    August 21, 2014

    Behanzin said all that

  28. grell
    August 21, 2014

    Mr.Thomas thank you for opening the citizens eye but as long as we have Tony Astaphan running the court system in dominica and a corrupt government we will never move forward,this guy family will not see justice,but the Almighty will have his day.

    • Angelica walsh
      August 21, 2014

      Grell here you go we must invite the government in all what we do and say when we giving a comment that is not pertaining to the government, please try to refrain from the politic and let us put our country back where it was, we are dividing our selves.

    • just saying
      August 21, 2014

      they might be able to escape the law but the prayers of family and friends will fall upon them wherever they are.

    • Unbelievable
      August 21, 2014

      It amazes me that people as you who consistently call the PM corrupt and are negative would bring in God’s name into your words. You are not talking on God’s behalf nor with his approval.
      Do you not think that God will judge you as well for your continuous defamation of character and debasement? For one, you are being disobedient to God and what He taught us.
      Our Lord said love one another and more . . . , also according to St. Paul. You too will not escape the just judgment of God.

      • one god to jugde us
        August 21, 2014

        couldn’t have said it better. let them run their mouth as usual..

      • August 21, 2014

        From jutice to truth, to furious, to fact now unbelievable, you can change your name as much as you want. The very same way snakes changes their skin, changing your fake name will not work, God’s name is not only for sinners like you to use, you also need to stop calling God’s name in all your mumbo jumbo jutice furious fact

      • CALL IT BY IT NAME
        August 22, 2014

        Bull crap. Loving someone does not mean you must condone wrong. If a parent loves a child they will discipline the child by words of caution. Do you have children? Do you correct them.

  29. browneyesgirl
    August 21, 2014

    hmmmmmm

  30. Anonymous
    August 21, 2014

    Dr. Thomas dear, it is not going to happen.

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