It appears that Prime Minister Dean Barrow moved rather quickly to settle the matter of awarding compensation to injured construction worker Steven Buckley. The 40-year-old father of five has been a staple of the evening news in recent weeks as he stared possible jail time for being unable to pay his hospital bill. That bill was incurred after a senior police officer shot at him and his co-workers during a vehicle stop in April of 2010. The incident left Buckley without a means of living and forced him to a hand-to-mouth existence, forced to rely on other’s generosity. PLUS News has been tracking the story all weekend and this is what we have found out. Firstly, sometime on Friday a police officer was seen at Buckley’s residence on George Street, apparently informing him of a meeting at the Racoon Street Police Station this morning, Monday, at 10:00 a.m. at which he was to be present along with Marlon Myers, the driver of the vehicle involved in the incident – without any legal representation. At this meeting, there was to be an offer of compensation of one hundred thousand dollars – “take it or leave it.” Mr Buckley spent the rest of the weekend attempting to discuss the proffered deal with an attorney and did not succeed until Monday morning, when Richard “Dickie” Bradley accompanied him, Myers and common-law partner Juanita Juarez to the meeting. Across the table from them were Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie, to whom Buckley had made a public appeal to meet face to face; Nigel Hawke, Deputy Solicitor General and Acting Solicitor General, and Trienia Young, Crown Counsel with the Attorney General’s Ministry, along with CEO in the Ministry of National Security, Retired Colonel George Lovell. A part payment is due by the end of the week, though a specific amount has not been determined. The remainder is due to be worked out between the attorneys pending the acquiring of certain records and information. As for what happens to the hospital bill, Mr Bradley says that too may become a topic for compensation, having previously noted that there is need for an update medical record to quantify Buckley’s continued problems.
Richard “Dickie” Bradley – Attorney:
Yes, I’m glad that the matter of the hospital bill was brought up. I had written and told them to please hold that matter in abeyance when they were pressuring Mr Buckley to pay. The KHMH official, Mrs Sharon Smith. did contact me and respond to say that until they have heard further. In any event, in a settlement those who cause the injury to you are liable and responsible for paying all your medical and other bills that you incurred. So every time Mr Buckley has to catch a taxi and go to the hospital and go to the pharmacy, we are going to write out that list of all the expenses. That is just the normal procedure in a settlement as well.
As regards the report about Mr Buckley being told not to come with an attorney, Bradley dismissed it as not worthy of answering. Speaking later with PLUS News, Mr Bradley said the settlement precludes a separate suit against Inspector Dennis Lopez, the officer charged with attempted murder over the April 2010 shooting, since his liability is that of the Government’s because he was on duty as a police officer. Secondly, the disposition of the civil case is separate from the criminal trial against the Inspector. That is scheduled for September’s session of the Supreme Court. Whether Lopez may consider taking a plea to a lesser charge remains to be seen. Mr Bradley told reporters that he took the case as “one Belizean standing up for another,” and was not being paid for his advice. As for Buckley, he had little to say at his big moment. He preferred to not discuss what led up to it but expressed his satisfaction and excitement at an end to his well-publicized troubles.
Steven Buckley – Shooting Victim: [paraphrased]
At the same time you’re satisfied that the matter is being settled.
Yes, because my boss has my back and I know I’m straight now.
There may also be some compensation for Marlon Myers, the driver of the vehicle as Dickie Bradley explains.
Richard “Dickie” Bradley – Attorney:
The driver of the vehicle is in fact standing here. He told me this morning that he had not made a formal claim. He was waiting until the case was completed in Court. Now that they’re in a mood to settle, I think he should make a claim for his vehicle.