As a motorcade in the memory of murdered teen Ashanti Riley is being planned for today, family members are feeling a bit relieved after Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC gave police instructions to charge a private-hire (PH) driver held for questioning in connection with her murder since last week.
Guardian Media was told yesterday that the driver is yet to be charged as ‘final checks’ were still being conducted yesterday. It is believed the driver, of Sunshine Avenue, the same area where Riley lived, could be charged before the weekend is up and will attend court virtually on Monday. The second suspect who was in police custody has been released pending further investigations, while the third suspect has been identified and is currently being sought by investigators.
It is alleged the 32-year-old suspect told police he picked up Riley and then two other men, one of whom is a gang member and is known by villagers.
The driver allegedly confessed he took the men and Riley to La Canoa in Santa Cruz and waited for them to return but said only the men returned and not Riley. The driver said he became fearful for his life and followed instructions from the men, who told him to take them away from the scene.
Riley’s nude, decomposed was found last Friday in a shallow stream at Upper La Canoa, four days after she went missing. An autopsy on Wednesday revealed she died from sharp force wounds to the right chest and lower abdomen and blunt force trauma to the back of the left chest.
Yesterday, the driver’s attorney Fareed Ali said as disturbing as the death of Riley is, equally so is the failure of Parliament to pass into law the Evidence Amendment Bill 2019.
“It must be noted that its successful piloting through the parliament provides no assurance that the ills it seeks to address will secure the rights of the accused or the victims of criminality,” Ali said.
“As an attorney representing the accused, it does not augur well that provisions amending the law protecting accused from police abuses of power has not been formalised.”
Ali said the escalating criminality against women is a side note in the justice system, adding the Domestic Violence Act has been amended to afford greater protection to victims of gender-based violence and the attendant public approval does not go unnoticed.
He said it is equally appalling that in 2020, the Parliament is yet to secure the passage of the long-overdue amendment to the Evidence Act, which affords a layer of protection to those detained by police whilst under arrest.
He said without passage of this act, suspects in police custody may continue to suffer wretched violations of their constitutional and human rights without redress.
“It is a travesty that draws no public scorn because it affords protection to suspects of crime in police custody. Police officers who lawlessly violate the rights of persons in their custody will continue to escape with impunity as long as the amendment fails to receive the required majority to become law,” he added.