Former government minister Frank McField told his Summary Court trial Wednesday that police had been so rough when arresting him, that at one point he feared for his life.
McField is facing charges of resisting arrest, threatening violence, assaulting police, disorderly conduct and obstructing police, arising from an incident at a road block in the early hours of 15 September, 2006, which was set up following a fatality on Shamrock Rd.
McField told the court he was arrested at the roadblock after saying to an officer ‘why the [expletive] don’t they open the road and let people through.’ Crown witnesses have claimed McField had said ‘[expletive] you and your disorderly,’ after PC Douglas Melville warned the crowd that the next person that cursed would be arrested for disorderly conduct.
McField said people at the scene were tired, frustrated, exhausted and angered, and the situation between police and the crowd was developing into an ‘us and them situation: They are foreigners and we are Caymanian.’
He thought the officer’s warning about cursing was an attempt to provoke the situation. It was as if the two officers represented a certain attitude towards white people, he claimed. Mr. Melville has previously told the court he does not consider himself ‘white’ and is instead of mixed parentage.
McField described what happened next:
‘I said why don’t they just open the [expletive] road and let the people go home.
‘[Mr. Melville] took my hands and tried to arrest me … he lunged at me to take hold of me and my first reaction was to pull away and to tell him to take his hands off me. He said he was putting me under arrest; I said ‘under arrest for what?’ … I don’t recall him saying what he was putting me under arrest for.’
McField said Mr. Melville’s partner, Cornelius Van Zyn, came to assist with the arrest and, after two attempts, one of the officers kicked his legs out from under him, causing all three to fall to the ground.
McField said he struggled with the officers but they managed to pin him to the ground, pushing his face into the pavement, which, he claimed, led to a split lip, broken glasses and bruising around his right eye.
‘When they had me on the ground, especially after I had difficulty breathing, I seriously feared for my life,’ he testified.
This claim came after six Crown witness either ruled out or said they could not recall McField bleeding or having bruising around his eye. McField’s attorney, Clyde Allen, did not question witnesses on whether McField’s glasses were broken in the arrest and none offered evidence on the point.
By the time officers returned him to his feet, McField said he had a bloodied lip and was frothing at the mouth.
Mr. Allen, questioned his client about Crown witnesses’ claims that he kicked Mr. Melville after returning to his feet before spitting in the face of Mr. Van Zyn. He denied having kicked the officer and said he did spit, but not in the policeman’s face. ‘My mouth was in the pavement,’ he said. ‘When I spat I was clearing my mouth of dust and particles because I had had problems breathing.’
McField denied Crown allegation that he had called the officers ‘[expletive] white racist pigs’, but conceded he had accused them of being racist.
He also rejected Crown charges he had threatened to kill the officers as they tried to arrest him.
In cross-examination, McField was grilled by Crown Counsel Nicola Moore about why he had gone to the roadblock, when the turn off to his house was well before the scene of the accident.
He said he went to see if he could assist as a respected member of the community.
It led Ms Moore to ask what it was that McField now did, given he was no longer a politician.
McField replied he is in business and does TV shows. ‘I talk to people about unfairness and people like you,’ he said.
Ms Moore seized on the comment, asking what he meant by ‘people like you’. ‘Do you have an issue with white people and people that are from outside of the Cayman Islands?’ she asked.
‘I’m not talking about colour, I’m talking about character,’ McField replied. ‘People that believe they are in a position of power and abuse people under them.’
Ms Moore fired back’ ‘Is that like ‘I’ll have you two off the island’,’ referring to Crown witnesses’ accounts of what McField said to the arresting officers. ‘Did you say that Mr. McField?’ she asked.
‘Yes I did,’ he replied.
She later asked the defendant what had been racist about the way the police treated him that night.
‘The way they put me to the ground; the way they interacted with me,’ he said. ‘The way they ignored me as a leading member of the community.’
Ms Moore questioned whether the real reason for his anger that night had been because he wasn’t given special treatment.
Cross examination ended with Ms Moore putting to McField that the evidence he had given was designed to minimise his guilt. ‘The reality is that you were drunk and mouthed off at the police,’ isn’t it?’ she said.
‘No, I didn’t,’ he responded.
Police leaked to TV
Earlier in the day, McField claimed police had leaked news of his arrest to a local TV station.
‘I am aware that I am a political person in this community,’ McField told Magistrate Grace Donalds. ‘So I was very concerned when the police refused to give me bail without [first] taking me to the Magistrate’s Court.
‘Upon my arrival at court, I had no idea there would be TV cameras there filming the police taking me into the court building. I understand that the TV station was informed by some member of the police force,’ he said.
This had come after police denied him any opportunity to change his clothes, he said, despite his wife having brought fresh clothes for him. His family was also denied access to him while locked-up, despite them making several attempts, he said.
‘When they had me on the ground, especially after I had difficulty breathing, I seriously feared for my life.’
– Dr. Frank McField