Antigua: Police say criticism of citizen’s arrest is ‘unfair’

Antigua Observer:-Despite criticism of how police treated last week’s highly contentious citizen’s arrest, a senior member of the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda (RPFAB) has insisted that the action was justified, and the executor, Hanna Hourani, was not out of order.

According to Superintendent Atlee Rodney, accusations of racial and class biases levelled at the force for not coming down hard on Hourani, a Syrian businessman, are unfounded.

“I think it’s an unfair criticism because a citizen’s arrest can be made by an individual of any ethnic group. I think it’s unfortunate that because in the recent case it was a particular person – the criticism was levelled.

“We have to look at the bigger picture in terms of what happened. He was taking action based on a crime that was committed,” Rodney said.

“The focus has shifted from the crime and the perpetrator of the crime to [Hourani] as a citizen trying to assist. It was an unfortunate criticism of the police.”

Hourani detained a man who he suspected of being involved in the theft of a vehicle some days before. The incident took place on September 18 in the parking lot of the First Choice Supermarket. An air rifle was used to subdue the subject of the arrest.

Rodney, who is Staff Officer to the Commissioner of Police, declared that under the “common law” an individual has the right to take such action but warned that it must “be done legally” and was not “something that we promote”.

The superintendent said, “It must not be frivolous and you feel that somebody has committed a crime. It has to be someone who is in the process of committing a crime or in an indictable matter.”

However, under those requirements, Dominica-based attorney, Henry Shillingford said, “I do not see how it could fit into a citizen’s arrest. That person should have been apprehended.”