05/13/2013 04:00 EDT | Updated 07/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Coroner's inquest into Canadian man's death in Grenada adjourned on first day

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada - A coroner's inquest into the death of a Toronto man killed in Grenada was put on hold just as it got underway Monday, a lawyer involved in the case said.

After only a day's proceedings, the inquest examining the circumstances surrounding Oscar Bartholomew's death was adjourned until August, the lawyer representing the victim's family said in an email.

The inquest must be carried out before prosecutors can move ahead with criminal charges against the five police officers accused of beating Bartholomew into a fatal coma more than a year ago.

But the lawyer, Derick Sylvester, said the officers could face new charges once the inquest wraps up.

Prosecutors have alleged police beat Bartholomew, 39, to death on Boxing Day 2011 after an altercation that began when he bear-hugged a policewoman he mistook for a friend.

He was in his native Grenada to visit family with his wife Dolette Cyr at the time.

Charges against the officers were dropped in mid-March after a judge found a coroner's inquest must be held before the criminal case can proceed.

More than 20 people, including some of Bartholomew's relatives, are expected to testify when it resumes.

Unlike inquests in Canada, those in Grenada can return a verdict of murder or manslaughter, leading to criminal charges.

"Our law says, post the coroner's inquest, the five-member jury panel would be in a position to determine whether or not the charges should be murder, manslaughter or acquittal," Sylvester said in a phone interview from St. George's.

"And I can assure you that the latter would be almost impossible because the society is so incensed with this incident that every time it comes to the fore, you know, you have the public outrage and the public outcry," he said.

At the time, Bartholomew's death stunned the island nation community of 110,000 and sparked protests over alleged systemic police brutality.

Some protesters said they were shocked that the officers had not been charged with murder.