01/11/2012 04:16 EST | Updated 03/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Oscar Bartholomew Civil Suit: Family Of Man Allegedly Beaten By Grenada Police Pressing For Settlement


ST. DAVID'S, Grenada - The family of a man allegedly beaten to death by police during a visit to Grenada last month is pressing for an out-of-court settlement with the government.

In an interview, their lawyer said he expected the government would accept civil liability for the death of Toronto resident Oscar Bartholomew rather than force a protracted civil suit.

"If the state decides it would not accept liability, then we would have to sue," Derick Sylvester said.

The lawyer said he would be "shocked" if the government declined to settle, leaving the family to take their wrongful-death claim to the courts.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bartholomew's wife, Dolette Cyr Bartholomew of Cascapedia-St. Jules, Que., and her daughter Jacynthe met the director of public prosecutions on Tuesday, when they were given an explanation about the criminal process against five police officers.

The men are charged with manslaughter in a case that stunned this island nation community of 110,000 and sparked protests over alleged systemic police brutality.

Based on an autopsy that showed skull fractures and broken bones, among other injuries, Sylvester said there was "absolutely no doubt" police viciously beat the "bound and gagged" Bartholomew, who was the father of a 13-year-old girl and 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.

The accused officers, who face 15 years in prison if convicted, have yet to enter a plea and none of the allegations have been tested in court. The men are expected to be released Friday after posting bail worth about C$38,000 secured by a lien on their property.

Bartholomew and his wife had stopped at the St. David's police station on Boxing Day en route from the capital St. George's so Cyr Bartholomew — his wife of 10 years described by family as his "best friend" and "soul mate" — could use the washroom.

When she went inside, Bartholomew bear-hugged a policewoman he mistook for a friend from behind, and she yelled for help. His family said he immediately apologized, but officers coming to her aid began using unnecessary force.

The defence lawyer for one of the accused policemen has said the officers may have been inebriated. The officers have admitted to having been drunk the previous night, Anslem Clouden has said, but it's not clear whether they were intoxicated at the time. Clouden has also suggested that Bartholomew was intoxicated and aggressively resisted arrest.

Cyr Bartholomew maintains her husband was not drunk.

Had he been intoxicated, Sylvester said, police should have been more easily able to restrain him without resorting to excessive force.

One senior police source said Wednesday that Bartholomew, who had a brother in the Grenada police force, put up a "hell of a battle."

He also said the entire St. David's detachment had been transferred out and noted that one of the accused officers was once stabbed in the shoulder while helping a colleague who was stabbed to death during an arrest.

The family would seek as much as $200,000 in damages for Bartholomew's death, the lawyer said.

Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, who on Monday attended Bartholomew's large funeral, has so far rejected calls for an independent inquiry into allegations that police misconduct is widespread.

He called the Bartholomew case "more or less" isolated.

Thomas did say no one should get away with human-rights violations, regardless of their position.