A prisons officer who is in custody awaiting trial for the murder of his wife was taken to the bank by his colleagues to transact business.
And that became a big issue for the Joint Select Committee on National Security on Thursday.
Was this a big deal? Was this the first time that this has happened?
So why did prison authorities feel the need to take this murder accused to a bank to conduct private business, without informing the police, with no handcuffs on, during bank hours on a month-end Friday when many people are paid?
The man appeared with no uniformed security and coincidentally happens to be a prisons officer who was charged with killing his wife in 2009.
The trial is yet to begin.
Even worse was the fact that the victim’s parents, who are witnesses in the case, happened to be in the Port of Spain bank at the same time.
An issue came up about whether this prisons officer was shown favoritism. UNC Senator Wayne Sturge said this treatment was not given to Jerome Henry when he was charged and remanded in custody for wilful neglect of a child, and not given permission to attend the funeral service of his five-year-old child.
Henry was allowed to view the body and was given a funeral program and according to committee chairman Fitzgerald Hinds (who declared his interest) was hustled out of the funeral home.
Hinds asked questions:
“You did not contemplate the possibility of him interfacing with relatives of the deceased?
The (family members) did not see uniformed security. Was the police present?
“No sir,” said Prisons Service Chief Welfare Officer Hayden Walcott.
“Were any members of the Defence Force present?” Hinds asked.
“No sir,” Walcott responded.
“So you can imagine that someone seeing him, knowing him and knowing the reason why he was incarcerated, must be astounded to see him on his own, transacting a financial affair in a bank,” Hinds added.
Hinds continued, “In the contemplation of the risk, did you consider at all the effect that his presence in the circumstances just described would have had on witnesses in that matter or witnesses in the criminal justice system generally who would be affronted by this situation?”
JSC member, Michael De Freitas, added, “The Prison Service took it upon themselves to determine that this was such an important transaction that it would put all these people at risk.’
De Freitas noted he had seen prisoners being transported between Trinidad and Tobago on the boat in handcuffs in the presence of other passengers.
However, in response to questions from the committee, Walcott said there were nine instances of inmates being taken to the bank.
Of the nine, eight were inmates of the Youth Training Centre (YTC) who were OJTs and were required by the OJT program to have bank accounts (into which money can be paid). The only adult inmate who was allowed to go to the bank was the murder accused, who is a prisons officer.
Walcott said this accused, unlike most other adult prisoners, continued to be paid a salary and therefore had an account.
In response to questions, Walcott also said this was the third occasion in which the murder accused had been taken to the bank.
He said the murder accused had operated his account through a power of attorney from 2010 to November 2016 when the bank advised that it could not transact business with this power of attorney.
Walcott stated further it was because the inmate needed the money for his legal fees and to support his child that he had to go to the bank.