Convicted ex-cop still on bail

| 12/11/2013

(CNS): Over four years after an ex-police officer was involved in an assault during an early morning off-duty arrest, he remains on bail pending the outcome of an appeal. Rabe Welcome (39), who was convicted of wounding in June last year and sentenced to six months in jail, has so far served only seven days of that sentence. More than a year after Justice Alex Henderson passed sentence in October 2012, Welcome has evaded the jail term after filing an appeal and being granted bail. When the current appeal court session opened to hear criminal cases Tuesday, Welcome’s attorney argued that his client should never have been convicted but if he was he should not have received a custodial sentence.

Thomas Lowe, QC, who was representing the former police officer during his appeal hearing, said that the jury was not properly directed to consider the issue of Welcome’s own belief that the force he used when he arrested Adolphus Myrie at a George Town gas station while off duty was proportionate. Even if others might consider that the force used was excessive, as Myrie received a number of injuries during the arrest including a broken arm, the lawyer argued that if Welcome believed it wasn’t disproportionate then he should not have been convicted. He claimed that the conviction sent a dangerous message to police officers with regard to what they should do if a suspect is resisting arrest.

He also submitted that if the conviction was safe, the sentence was excessive and Justice Henderson had concluded by the guilty verdict that the jury must have found that Welcome’s excessive force was as a result of anger and a desire to punish or extract revenge from his victim rather than to subdue him enough to enable him to place Myrie under arrest. Having arrived at that conclusion, which the attorney argued went too far as the trial judge could not know what the jury were thinking, the sentence was too severe and although justice Henderson had been concerned about the deterrent factor, Lowe argued that the same could have been achieved with a suspended sentence.

Following submissions from the crown, in which prosecuting counsel argued that the conviction was safe and the sentence proportionate, the appeal court judges said they would deliver their decision next week towards the end of this appeal court session. In the meantime, Welcome’s bail was extended once again.

At the time of sentencing Justice Henderson pointed to the need to deter other police officers from using excessive force and to send a message that such abuse of power would not be tolerated. The judge said that although Welcome had no previous convictions or disciplinary violations and had good character references with a low risk of re-offending given the circumstances, he still felt a custodial sentence was necessary and handed down the six month term.

Welcome was arrested following the incident and suspended from duty for some three years until his trial this summer. After his conviction he was dismissed from the service.

The incident was caught on CCTV, and although there was a degree of provocation as Myrie had threatened Welcome and two other off duty officers with a machete, at the time Welcome beat Myrie he was unarmed. The altercation had started among the men when Welcome insulted Myrie’s girlfriend and, the court found, Myrie had then over-reacted with his threats towards the off-duty officers.

The judge said that Welcome had a right to make an arrest as Myrie had committed at least two offences, but once the victim had been persuaded to put down the machete there was no longer a need for Welcome to defend himself. Justice Henderson found that when the assault took place, Myrie did not pose a threat to the off-duty officer, who was also physically much bigger than him.

During the sentencing hearing, Welcome’s defence attorney, Ben Tonner, had asked the judge not to impose a custodial sentence but to consider a community based sentence and a compensation order because a prison sentence for a former police officer would be even harder since he could be serving alongside people he had arrested.

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Category: Crime

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