Ex-cop acquitted of beating

| 21/11/2013

(CNS): A former police officer who was convicted by a jury of malicious wounding and sentenced to six months in prison after badly beating a man during an early morning off-duty arrest more than four years ago has been cleared by the Court of Appeal. Rabe Welcome, who was fired from the RCIPS following his conviction last June, has had that conviction discharged after his successful appeal and the higher court refused the crown’s request for a retrial. The judges said the trial judge in his summing up to the jury did not make it clear that his guilt or otherwise was not just a matter of whether or not the defendant did or didn’t use reasonable force but whether he honestly believed it to be necessary, even if it was excessive.

Welcome was convicted in June 2012 and sentenced the following October. However, because he appealed the sentence he spent only a few days in jail as he was bailed pending the hearing.

The appeal was heard last week but the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal delivered its ruling Thursday afternoon, when the panel quashed the conviction on the point regarding the jury direction and delivered a not guilty verdict. An application by crown counsel Michael Snape for a retrial was immediately rejected by the president of the CICA, Sir John Chadwick, as he said it was not a case on which the court felt there should be anothertrial.

The appeal court explained that the issue was a question of whether or not Welcome believed at the time that he needed to use the force regardless of whether others would see it as reasonable or not. As a result, a more specific direction should have been givento the jury because the defendant should have been judged on his belief of what he was doing was necessary.

The appeal panel said that there was “real doubt” whether there was enough to alert the jury to the possibility that he had felt or honestly believed what he was doing was reasonable. The judges noted, however, that if they had not set the conviction aside, they would not have overturned the sentence as they did not think the six months was harsh or excessive.

Welcome had been convicted on charges relating to malicious wounding after he had broken the arm of Adolphus Myrie and caused him other injuries at the Red Bay Esso station during an early morning altercation and a subsequent arrest, when the then RCIPS officer was off-duty.

Following his conviction and at the time of sentencing Justice Alex Henderson pointed to the need in this case to deter 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, had good character references and there was a low risk of re-offending, given the circumstances, he felt a custodial sentence was necessary and he handed down the six month term.

Welcome was arrested following the incident and suspended from duty for some three years until his trial in the summer of 2012, after which he was dismissed from his job.

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 actually beat Myrie he was unarmed.

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