Cop’s death ruled suicide; RCIPS ‘lacks sensitivity’

| 18/09/2014

(CNS): After deliberating for about 90 minutes, the jury at the inquest into the death of PC Raphael Williams, who was found hanging from a tree in East End 12 January, reached a verdict of death by suicide, noting the policeman “felt embarrassed and humiliated by his arrest and felt extremely stressed and distraught with the fear of going to prison”. Williams had been arrested on 9 January for allegedly soliciting sexual favours in exchange for not issuing a traffic ticket. The unanimous verdict by the seven jurors came after Coroner Eileen Nervik directed the jury on the various options available to them.

To return a verdict of suicide, the jury had to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the deceased intended his own death and acted on that intention. After the verdict was read, while declaring the inquest was complete, the coroner, in what she acknowledged was an unusual step, addressed the courtroom.

The coroner told the court, “It was clear during this inquest that police officers found this tragedy and death of a colleague under these circumstances very troubling.” She noted a lack of counselling, people skills and sensitivity training.

Her remarks were apparently in reference to testimony heard during the inquest, which included William’s widow as well as numerous police officers discussing his state of mind during custody at George Town Police Station and while on bail.

Several statements read out in court Monday, 15 September, said he was stressed, embarrassed and ashamed, and that he felt he was being treated like a criminal by his fellow officers. His wife previously testified that he told her Richard Oliver, head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, informed Williams at the time of his bail that when he returned on the following Tuesday to answer his bail he would be “booked into Northward”.

Natalee Williams had testified her husband told her what Oliver had said, telling her he had sent a number of prisoners to Northward and was afraid they would kill him, that going there was his biggest fear.

The coroner continued, saying that while she wasn’t intending to be critical, “The RCIPS may wish to consider providing grief counseling and other counseling services to its members that are specifically designed for the RCIPS.” She added that the police would benefit from sensitivity and people-skills training on an ongoing basis, pointing out that such training actually took place in Cayman in the late-90s.

After the verdict, the RCIPS issued a statement saying an officer “took notes of the coroner’s comments that the RCIPS should consider future ‘sensitivity training’ of its officers and the availability of ‘grief counselling’ for its staff under such circumstances. The RCIPS utilizes the servicesof its police chaplain and Employee Assistance Programme.”

Lastly, noting she has been a coroner in this jurisdiction since 2012 and has presided over about 140 inquests, she said, “I would like to mention knowledge, or lack thereof, of attorneys in private practice in this court.”

She suggested that attorneys instructed to appear take the time to learn about procedure in a coroner’s inquest. “It would also be helpful to sit in and observe an inquest,” she said, adding it would benefit all parties, including the court, helping to ensure “the smooth running of the inquest and less time for irrelevant matters.”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am not entirely sure what the police are being blamed for in this case? Did they not follow protocol?  The officer killed himself within days of being bailed so I am not sure what the Coroner is suggesting the police should have done or should have been more sensitive about.  He apparently broke the law- that does not call for arranging grief counselling, it calls for due legal process which was taking place.  It is a tragic incident and my heart goes out to his loved ones, however let's not blame the police for his choice on how to deal with the matter.

  2. Fred the Piemaker says:

    According to the Compass, the inquest found that Constable Williams had photographs on his cellphone, and "Those photographs were previously described as intimate and of individual females, one of whom was thought to be between 12 and 14 years old".  And your concern is that the RCIPS were not "sensitive" to Constable Williams fears and concerns, or that he felt he was being treated like a criminal?  How exactly should they have treated him, do you think?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I completely agree with the Coroner here on all points!

  4. Anonymous says:

    How is it that the headline didn't read "the lack of knowledge of attorneys who attend coroners court highlighted".

    Maybe it wouldn't attract quite so much comment? It should raise alarm bells as much as the actual headline.

    That being said this whole matter must have been upsetting to all involved.