Knives have no place in schools

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KNIVES have no place in schools, a High Court judge has warned as he acquits a 25-year-old man who has been in custody for nine years, charged with a murder he was accused of committing at the age of 15.

“Pens, pencils and books, but knives have no place in school. What are the knives doing at school? I don’t know,” Judge Geoffrey Henderson said, after telling Jonathan Timothy Bruce he had been released from the May 27, 2013 murder of Renaldo Dixon at Waterloo High School. Dixon was killed during morning break, allegedly for a girl.

Henderson also had a message for all students at school: “Stay away.

“Here is a schoolboy who spent nine years of his life awaiting trial, so even though he was acquitted, he lost nine years. It would have been better if everyone had gone.”

Henderson’s comments came as a postscript to his not guilty verdict at the end of a judge-only trial at the San Fernando High Court, where he spoke about the current increase in violence at the school.

He also noted aspects of the evidence in the case of a knife found in Dixon’s pocket and another that was not found.

“How are these students allowed to enter a school with such dangerous and deadly weapons, and why do they have them? It may be necessary now to start scanning students as they enter schools. »

He also criticized the nine-year wait for the case to go to trial, saying it was unacceptable.

“The defendant in this case was a fifth-year student taking exams at the time of this incident. It should never have taken this long to bring this case to court.”

Henderson said Bruce had to wait nine years to get his day in court. Bruce was remanded for trial in June 2016, but the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions did not file the indictment until December 2020.

Bruce’s attorney, Ainsley Lucky, had filed a motion to stay the indictment for abuse and delay, but Henderson reversed that decision.

He also had advice for Bruce,

“Now you have to pick up the pieces of your life. You are going back to a different Trinidad and Tobago… Make something of yourself. Learn to walk away.

At trial, the state relied on the testimony of 31 witnesses, 18 of whom testified in person at the virtual hearing, including teachers and students.

It was alleged that on May 27, 2013, Bruce and Dixon were in a classroom with other students when they got into a fight.

It was alleged that Bruce pulled out a knife and stabbed third year student Dixon. A school security guard should have saved Bruce from being punched and handcuffed by other students before the police arrived at the school and arrested him.

The defense pleaded on behalf of Bruce was self-defense and provocation.

A student testified to seeing Dixon slap Bruce. Dixon’s best friend said Bruce shoved Dixon before he was slapped, then pulled the knife.

After pointing to the testimony of several students, Henderson said the testimony of Dixon’s best friend was inconsistent with that of the other witnesses about the commotion in the class and could not be believed.

“The deceased was his best friend, and I don’t believe he gave truthful and unbiased evidence.”

Instead, Henderson said evidence from Bruce’s girlfriend Kristen Dixon and another student at the time was more plausible.

“Both testified that Kristen Dixon was placed in the difficult position of being forced to choose between the two boys in the presence of the boys, and to choose the defendant…

“The testimonies of these two witnesses indicate that the deceased was rejected by Kristen Dixon and, after being pushed back, went after the defendant. The reverse does not make much sense.”

In his verdict, Henderson said there was enough evidence in the prosecution case to raise the issue of self-defense.

“This defense is for the prosecution to rebut the criminal standard… On the evidence, the prosecution has not rebutted self-defence.”

He said it was Dixon who initiated the attack.

Kristen Dixon testified that Dixon came to talk to her before class started and she said she would talk to him during break time.

She said that when he left the classroom, he approached Bruce, pushing him. She testified that she separated them and later that morning during break she was in her class when Dixon came to sit across from her. They were talking when Bruce allegedly walked into the classroom, approached the two, and gave him an ultimatum: make a decision.

She wouldn’t respond and it was alleged that Dixon slapped Bruce, leaving the classroom, only to return a few minutes later and grab the older boy. The two began to fight and the girl said she was cut on the wrist as she tried to stop the two boys, after which Dixon was heard shouting “Ouch!”

Lawyer Ambay Ramkellawan is being prosecuted.

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