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Conflicting accounts about how teenager was burnt while in police custody

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 July 2022, 22:32 by Denis Chabrol

The burnt teenager

Conflicting accounts emerged Sunday night about how a 17-year old boy was burnt while in police custody, with him saying an investigator lit him afire and the Guyana Police Force stating that the suspect was playing with a lighter.

Police said two ranks at the Vigilance Police Station were placed under close arrest, and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is “investigating the matter.”

Hospitalised with burns to his left side ribs area and hand is a 17-year old fisherman of Annandale, East Coast Demerara.

In a video released by People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) member Andrew Weekes, the teenager accused a policeman of burning him and then beaten to state that he was responsible for his burns. “I tell he (named policeman) me ain’t know about no gun and me and he start scuffle. After that, he get up and take the lighter and light me because he ain’t know it would of ended up and come so bad. I end up and take off me jersey and run outside and dash it in the water. And when the ambulance come, tell them I burn me self… Dem end up and beat me fuh say dat when the ambulance come,” he said.

There were no visible injuries from his alleged beating seen in the video.

But the Guyana Police Force said at about 10:10 Sunday morning, Peters was in custody and alone in the lockups. “Screams where heard coming from the lockups and when a rank made checks, he observed the jersey that the teenager was wearing was on fire. The EMT from Melanie Fire Station was summoned and Peters was treated. He was questioned and related to the police that he was given a lighter by another person who was in custody (on the bench), and he lit same and was playing with it and his jersey caught afire,” the Guyana Police Force said in a statement.

Police said statements were taken from persons who were at the station and witnessed when the incident occurred.

Meanwhile, acting Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken, in a separate statement, warned that stern action would be taken against members of that law enforcement agency who  on their own deviate from the force’s standard operating procedures and break the law. “If any rank is found to have breached the SOPs then regulations will be enforced and/or if any rank act independently outside of the law, then that rank will be dealt with condignly and face the full brunt of the law,” he said hours after the incident at the Vigilance Police Station.

In 2008, two policemen had been implicated in the burning of the genitals of a 15-year old boy while he had been in custody as part of a murder probe.  The High Court subsequently awarded him GY$6.5 million in damages. In 2014, a 19-year old man had accused police of burning his hands while he had been in custody for alleged loitering and armed robbery.