A magistrate’s conviction of a retired estate constable for throwing a kettle of hot water at police who illegally entered his home on a domestic-violence report has been set aside.
On Friday, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Vasheist Kokaram upheld the appeal of Peter Cedeno, 74, after deputy Director of Public Prosecutions George Busby said the State was unable to agree with the magistrate’s decision.
He submitted that the police’s entry into Cedeno’s home on the night of September 26, 2017, was illegal, so Magistrate Avion Gill was wrong to overrule a no-case submission and impose a bond of $1,500 to keep the peace for six months for the offence of throwing missiles.
Busby said according to the evidence at the magistrates’ court, the police met Cedeno’s wife outside their home while Cedeno was still inside.
When the police entered, Cedeno pelted Carib bottles, a beer case and a chair at the door. Cedeno then threw an electric kettle of boiling water at an officer, who was burned on the shin. Cedeno was eventually subdued, arrested and charged.
Busby quoted from sections of the Domestic Violence Act on the police’s powers to enter a home when investigating a domestic-violence report.
“The important thing was that the wife was outside in the safety of the police and the appellant was inside.”
He said the act allows the police to enter premises if they have reasonable cause to believe someone is engaging in or attempting to engage in conduct that can result in physical violence, or where the failure to act could end in injury or death.
He said there was nothing in the act that authorised the police to enter to search or arrest anyone who was not engaging in such conduct.
He also said the act mandates officers to send a report to the police commissioner to be sent to the DPP’s office when officers enter premises without a warrant, detailing the manner of the investigation, and the measures that needed to be taken for safety.
“No report was ever received by the DPP…Those should have been forthcoming.”
Busby said if the police had not entered Cedeno’s home illegally, he would not have been throwing the missiles.
He acknowledged that while throwing missiles is an offence, the items were thrown at the police.
“If the entry was illegal, he was well within his right to throw anything at anyone entering his property. We say the entry was illegal.”
He also said in giving her reasons for convicting Cedeno, the magistrate relied on evidence of a medical report submitted by the officer who was burned on the shin “from the other case about a kettle being thrown.”
In agreeing with Busby, the judges upheld Cedeno’s appeal and set aside Gill’s orders. They did not order a retrial, since, they said, the evidence will not change.
In his defence at the magistrates’ court, Cedeno said he was almost blind in one eye and had lost sight in the other because of an accident two years before the incident; suffered from head and other injuries; had a leg and speech impediment; and suffered memory loss. On the evening of the incident, he admitted he and his wife had an argument which led to an altercation between them and their son.
His wife and son left the house and he put a chair in front of the door so he would know when she returned. He said at 8.45 pm, he went to the kitchen to make tea and put up the kettle when he heard the chair being dragged as the door was pushed open.
He said he turned and saw a large person dressed in black rushing at him. That person tackled him and pushed him to the floor without identifying themselves. He said the kettle and his walking cane fell from his hands and he and the other person landed on the floor. Cedeno said he thought bandits had broken into the house and, fearing for his life, put up a struggle.
He was taken to St Ann’s Hospital, after which he was charged with throwing missiles and assaulting a police officer.
Cedeno said he did not know the individual who tackled him was a police officer, nor did he throw anything during the struggle.
At the appeal, Cedeno’s brother Rickie represented him.