CHARLESTOWN, Nevis – CHAIRPERSON of the Foundation for Social Concerns (FSC), Ruth Powell has reiterated the call for justice for 17-year-old Philo Wallace, who was shot and killed by an off-duty Constable on October 17, 2015.
According to Powell, the FSC, formally known as SAVE SKN, was founded in response to the then rising crime, specifically in Nevis and generally in the twin-island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
In a press release to this publication, Powell said, “In our search for solutions, it has become obvious that without social justice, there will be no solution to rising crime. A society that does not provide justice for all of its members will be susceptible to increasing criminal behavior.”
The Chairperson stated that social justice includes access to a fair and non-discriminatory judicial system; equal acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or financial position; equal treatment of each member of the society in terms of respect and dignity.
“All persons,” she added, “should be entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and dignity regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or financial position. Therefore, the role of the Foundation for Social Concerns extends to seeking judicial and social justice for all.
“In light of this, FSC will address any issue which threatens the judicial and social justice of the Federation.”
She stressed that when her foundation chooses to ask the relevant authority why a particular issue and not another, it is faced with a response that attempts to direct attention from the original issue which serves no purpose.d
The Chairperson intimated that one such issue the FSC has been dealing with for over three years, is that of Philo Wallace.
She opined that in Wallace’s case, “the injustice lies in the fact that we are not all equal under the law. Yes, when a police officer is responsible for a death in the discharge of his duties, a different standard is applied. It is inherent in his role as a police officer that this is a possibility. The officer then faces an internal review of the circumstances of his actions and either faces administrative consequences for his actions, being charged with a crime, or is cleared of wrong doing”.
Powell continued: “The problem here is that Officer Zaviel Jeffers was not on duty. His treatment as an officer was different from the treatment a civilian would have received. Again that is to some degree understandable but not entirely acceptable.”
It is on this premise that she asked: “Why was he not tested for blood alcohol level or drugs? This incident took place in a bar. The RSCNPF has a gun policy. It states that off duty officers ‘shall not carry firearms when they intend to consume intoxicants’. In light of that, it seems a reasonable course of action to test for alcohol and drugs.”
Powell reminded that a Coroner's Inquest has been used in the past and it seems to be the preferred method of dealing with police officers who shoot civilians.
She however intoned that to the public it appears to be a way to exonerate police without going through an actual trial where evidence is presented and cross-examination is possible, instead of an inquest in which the police gather and present the evidence to a jury chosen by police with no advocate for the victim or possibility of questioning the evidence.
“So why does the Foundation for Social Concerns choose to address the case of Philo Wallace?” she asked, while providing this self-answer: “Because failure to address this case threatens the judicial and social justice of the Federation. In cases where civilians kill other civilians, the public at least has the expectation that those cases will eventually be heard if a defendant has been apprehended. But in Philo's case the public has no such expectation.”
She claimed that the on August 28, 2018, the FSC had emailed the Director of Public Prosecutions with concerns about the lack of progress in having Philo Wallace’s case heard in court.
Powell contended that the FSC had asked the DPP a few simple questions but they all went unanswered.
“Attempts to contact the DPP have failed, letters written to the Attorney General have met with no response, repeated attempts over a period of weeks to meet with the Attorney General have not proven successful,” she explicated.
The FSC Chairman is however hoping that a recent request for a meeting with the Prime Minister on the subject would not have the same fate.
At approximately 3:45 a.m. on Saturday, October 17, 2015, an altercation took place at Enrique Bar in Charlestown, Nevis which resulted in Philo Wallace of Hamilton Village being shot in the chest and the wounding of a Constable.
Wallace was rushed to the Alexandra Hospital where he died about half an hour after.
It was learnt that Constable Zaviel Jeffers, who had suffered an injury to his head, was identified as the individual who shot Wallace to the chest at close range and was off-duty at the time of the incident.
Constable Jeffers was charged with Manslaughter but was cleared of the offence following a Coroner’s Inquest.
This was confirmed on Thursday, March 10, 2016 by Deputy Commissioner Hilroy Brandy, who had said the Inquest’s jury had ruled 4-1 that the killing was justifiable homicide.