Justice eludes parents of child killed almost six years ago
Six years after the driver of a speeding car killed his nine-year-old son, Deodat Loaknauth remains angry, despondent and bewildered that the culprit will never spend a single day behind bars.
He feels betrayed by the police, let down by his lawyers, and frustrated that an appeal he made to the highest office in the land came to naught.
If ever there was a case of justice delayed and denied, it might be this one.
On August 7, 2006, Ramesh Loaknauth was struck down by a hire car driver in front of his parents’ home at Dryshore, Essequibo Coast. He never regained consciousness and died seven days later in the Intensive Care Unit of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
Mr. Loaknauth has said that their son was heading to a nearby shop when the car struck him. They alleged that the driver stopped momentarily but then drove away.
Deodat Loaknauth said it was left to him to take his unconscious son to the Suddie Public Hospital some three miles away. He was then advised to take the child to Georgetown, and that meant that he had to hire a plane to take his boy to the city.
After a CT scan at the Woodlands Hospital, Ramesh Loaknauth was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the GPHC. On August 14, he passed away.
Mr. Loaknauth alleged that the driver was eventually arrested but was released on $35,000 bail the same day.
“They told me that they can’t charge the man. They never gave me a reason why they couldn’t hold the man the 72 hours.”
At the very least, he had expected that the case would have been heard in the courts within a few days. But a month passed and the accused driver had still not been charged. Mr. Loaknauth took his case to the Police Complaints Authority.
Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority Cecil Kennard contacted former Police Commissioner Henry Greene requesting a response on the matter. Four months passed without a response.
Mr. Kennard again contacted Commissioner Greene. In a letter dated January 2, 2007, he stated: “The complaint was lodged at my office since 6th September 2006. Despite a lapse of four months the relevant report has not been forwarded to this office.
“I am of the view that someone is dragging his (her) feet on the matter. This is not good for the image of the Guyana Police Force. One is left to conclude that an attempt is being made to shield the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident. In order to avoid this impression, every effort should be made to have the relevant report forwarded to this office as soon as possible,” Kennard’s letter stated.
The following month, Mr. Loaknauth received a letter from a police official who apologized for the delay in communicating with the still-grieving father. The letter also informed the couple that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had advised that an inquest be held into their son’s death.
Mr. Loaknauth also received a letter from the Police Complaints Authority informing him of the inquest.
However, Chairman of the Complaints Authority, Cecil Kennard advised the father that “it would be in your interest to seek the help of a lawyer with a view of bringing a civil action for damages for the death of your son as an inquest is likely to take an exceedingly long time to start.”
On January 11, 2007, Mr. Loaknauth wrote to then President Bharrat Jagdeo. The office of the President acknowledged receipt of his letter.
In a correspondence dated January 12, 2007, an attorney for Mr. Loaknauth informed the accused driver that he was preparing to seek damages in excess of $1M, “for the loss of the life of his son by the fatal accident involving you.” The correspondence noted that this was “separate and independent to any criminal proceedings which may be taken against you by the police.”
But it was still a case of delayed justice for the Loaknauths.
Almost 11 months after their son had died, the inquest had still not begun. Mr. Kennard informed Police Commissioner Henry Greene that the witnesses were not turning up. He appealed to Greene to ensure that the witnesses appear at the next hearing.
By then the Loaknauths had already filed criminal charges against the driver.
In 2010, the inquest ended, and a five-member jury ruled that the hire car driver was culpable in the death of nine-year-old Ramesh Loaknauth.
“We ruled that the man must be charged for causing death by dangerous driving,” one juror told Kaieteur News. The source also said that the severity of the child’s injuries, which included fractured ribs, suggested that the driver was speeding when the accident occurred.
But to Mr. Loaknauth’s dismay, he was informed that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had advised that the accused driver could not be charged for causing his son’s death.
In a letter, DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack explained that Mr. Loaknauth had filed private criminal charges against the driver before the completion of the inquest.
“A person can only be charged once for an offence. Since a private charge has already been instituted, the police cannot now institute a second charge,” the DPP’s statement said.
Mr. Loaknauth told Kaieteur News that even the private criminal charge he had filed brought the family no justice.
According to him, the case was thrown out after some of the police witnesses repeatedly failed to turn up. He expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the work of the attorney he had retained for this case.
What is still unclear is what caused the police investigation to be delayed to the point where Mr. Loaknauth became so frustrated that he had to resort to filing private criminal charges.
But there is now nothing that the still grieving father can do, even though he still occasionally sees the driver who snuffed out his son’s life. To add to his sense of injustice, Mr. Loaknauth claims that the driver sometimes grins at him.