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Damning allegations that a Grenadian family visiting Barbados was manhandled and humiliated by Barbadian police are hurting Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.
A disappointed Mitchell is, however, in no mood for a row with his Caribbean neighbour, immediately quashing angry suggestions from his homeland that St George’s abandon its ties with Bridgetown.
He has instead opted to await the outcome of investigations on the matter, even as he told the Barbados Today online newspaper that the reports were upsetting and could be a serious indictment on Barbadian police.
“It seems to me that there might have been an overreaction from a report, and if what I saw is true, the police may have to examine their approach in a matter of this nature because, as it turns out, there may not be any basis for it from all reports I have heard,” Prime Minister Mitchell said.
The Gilbert family told a horrifying story of being wrongfully accused of stealing a mobile phone belonging to a store owner, which led to three members of the group being strip searched and ridiculed by Barbadian police.
Tamika Gilbert recounted that lawmen took her family to a police station, despite no evidence they had the missing cell phone, and it was there the nightmare unfolded.
“I went to the bathroom and she [female police officer] is at the stall with her back to the door and she said ‘take your hair down’, cause my hair is in braids and it was in a bun, then she says, ‘take off all your clothes stoop and cough’.”
Prime Minister Mitchell, who is married to a Barbadian, said: “It looks very painful and if I had a daughter, I certainly would not want her to go through what I saw reported.”
Acknowledging that he personally knew the Gilbert family, Mitchell told Barbados Today “it was not the type of family to walk in and do what I saw reported”.
He expressed concern that Barbados continued to be plagued by reports of ill-treatment of CARICOM nationals, highlighting the case of Jamaican Shenique Myrie, who in October 2013 successfully sued the Barbados Government before the Caribbean Court of Justice on the grounds that she was wrongfully denied entry to the country. She had also claimed she was subjected to an illegal cavity search and inhumanely treated.
Mitchell said such incidents sent a wrong message about CARICOM, and Barbados should take “a second look at its operations and approach in the system”.
The Grenadian Prime Minister is expecting to receive a full report on the incident by the end of the week.
The Nation newspaper in Barbados has reported that about nine regional lawyers has been assembled to consider the legal options of the Gilbert family.