By Lakhram Bhagirat
Just over a week ago, on October 29, Malenie Pierre and her 15-year-old son were sitting in the Juvenile Court as Magistrate Dylon Bess delivered what they think is a proverbial slap in the face of justice. Magistrate Bess sentenced the two boys who punctured Pierre’s son’s lungs with a pair of scissors to two years for their crime, but instantaneously suspended that sentence and left his bench while the victim sobbed as he realised that justice was not served.
“When I saw my son there in that courtroom and he broke down after he heard that these boys got a suspended sentence, I was angry. The justice system failed us and I feel like I have failed my son as a parent. I am so angry I do not want to talk about it,” Malenie remembers.
On February 28, a group of four boys who are believed to be part of a gang ambushed Shemuel Pierre as he was sheltering from the rain at Prospect on the East Bank of Demerara. Shemuel, a student of Covent Garden Secondary School, was stabbed twice to the chest region by the group of boys who were brought there by one of his school colleagues.
In order to understand the events that led to that fateful day, one has to go back to February 27 when a student in a lower class than Shemuel began bullying him. The student is reported as an aggressor and would often bully students because he was covered by immunity because of his close association to the Guyana Police Force.
On February 27, he crossed paths with Shemuel, but before a physical confrontation could have occurred, a teacher escorted Shemuel to a bus and sent him home. Feeling as if that encounter was in the past, Shemuel returned to school the following day and the day went by smoothly until school was dismissed to facilitate a Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) meeting.
As he was making his way out of the street which housed his school, the rain began falling forcing him to seek shelter at a nearby shop. While at the shop, he was ambushed by his assailant from the previous day, but the startling difference was that his bully was accompanied by three other boys.
The quartet that attacked Shemuel is believed to be part of a school gang that operates in the area. Despite being outnumbered, Shemuel retaliated when his attackers pounced on him. However, he was beaten to the ground, held in a vice by one of them, and stabbed twice by another two while they continued beating him.
It is unclear whether anyone came to his rescue while he was being attacked, but shortly after, one of his teachers noticed the commotion and upon checking, found her student on the ground struggling to breathe. Quick action resulted in him being taken to the Diamond hospital for emergency treatment only to be told that he was fine and would be sent home.
By that time, his family had been summoned and arrived at the institution; they realised that Shemuel was in no condition to go home rather he seemed as though he needed emergency medical assistance. They offered to take him to a private institution only to be told by ranks from the Providence Police Station that he would be taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital instead. When he arrived at the Georgetown Public Hospital, it was discovered that both of his lungs were punctured and he would require emergency surgery to repair the rapidly deteriorating organs.
He would go on to spend five days in the hospital, but that was the least of his worries. After being discharged, a few days later, he revisited the hospital for a check-up and was given the medical stamp of approval.
“That night when we came home from the hospital, we had to rush him back to a private hospital (name provided) because dark blood was gushing out of the wound and he was in pain. The doctors there told me that they (GPHC) took out the tube too early and not all the blood drain out and that he may have to do another surgery. But they said they will treat him first and see how it goes. They treated him and he got better, but you see how I could have lost my son?” Malenie lamented.
To date, Shemuel is still in pain and has not fully recovered.
When Shemuel was attacked, the teacher who rendered assistance visited the Grove Police Station to report the incident, but was referred to the Providence Station, since they had jurisdiction over the matter. The report was made and Shemuel provided the names of his attackers to the Police.
However, the family was not prepared for the reluctance on the part of ranks at Providence when it came to the investigation. They visited the station on a daily basis to get updates only to be met with rudeness from the ranks there and no update.
When Shemuel was readmitted to the hospital, his mother decided that enough was enough and began taking steps to get answers. She first visited the A Division Headquarters at Brickdam and reported her distress, but that still did not impact the non-movement of the investigation. Answers came only after Malenie met with then Crime Chief Lyndon Alves and he began looking into the case.
That was almost two months after the initial report was made. Meanwhile, Shemuel was out of school and his attackers roamed the area, threatening his friends into silence.
Following Alves’s questioning, Providence ranks apprehended two of the attackers and both admitted to stabbing Shemuel. They were charged and placed before the courts.
“From the time they read the charge, I was angry. They charged these boys with unlawful wounding and both of my son’s lungs were punctured. We think that it should be attempted murder, because that is what they tried to do. These two boys are brothers and they have other cases before the court,” Malenie said.
The case came to a conclusion on Tuesday last, but it was a verdict the family was not prepared for.
“I was so mad when he read that charges and suspended it. I say if they get their two years, let them go and spend it and think about what they did. Because a lot of youths have been doing things and walking free. The two boys have matters before the court and the one that confessed. Both of his lungs were punctured and they had to do emergency surgery to reconstruct the puncture, but they charged the boys with wounding instead of attempted murder. That was the first thing that get me angry because they put unlawful wounding and both of my son’s lungs were punctured – both!”
Shemuel was in court on the day the verdict was read. At no point in time, his attackers expressed genuine remorse and when he heard the verdict, all his walls came crashing down. He broke down and sobbed while his infuriated mother watched him helplessly.
That day, Malenie said she felt as though the justice system was not designed for justice, because more emphasis was placed on the attackers as opposed to the victim. The attackers, according to her, got the royal treatment since they are back on the streets with very little obligations and they have been receiving counselling among other benefits.
Meanwhile, her son, the victim, is yet to receive the promised counselling to help deal with the trauma of being brutally stabbed.
“Like I left stupid after he suspended the sentence. I went up to the Prosecutor and asked if that was the decision and then I start talking because it had over 20 Police in the room. I said this is not fair, those could never be fair to me and my child. Even if he got his two-year sentence, then why he suspended it? And then afterwards, the counsellor and
Prosecutor telling me that the justice system did not fail me. It actually failed me, especially my son, because my son started crying. He started to cry. I waited eight months to get some sort of satisfaction or justice.”
The family is yet to decide their next move in their quest for justice, but is contemplating an appeal of the suspended sentence.