The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – The Forgotten Prisoner of Dodd’s

When reading comics as a young boy, the lure of monsters and bogeymen proved irresistible. There was the mummy, still wrapped in his now tattered burial shroud; the obligatory skeleton that somehow or other drove fear in the hearts of men of flesh and blood; and the zombie with his mottled bleeding flesh evoking repulsion in the pursued, lest he should grab you and do to you whatever it is that zombies do. In those days, with the emphasis on the shock value of the dead coming back to life, the monster that intrigued me most was one, seemingly caught forever in the penumbra between the dead and the undead; the forgotten prisoner of Castle Mare.

Back then; I had no idea of the genesis of this creature. I have since learnt that the image of the forgotten prisoner preceded the fictional account of his existence. From one internet source, “According to Greenberg’s Guide to Aurora Models, Aurora’s Bill Silverstein made a deal with Warren Publishing to create and promote new monster related kits, and in 1966 the Forgotten Prisoner was introduced. Later, in 1970, issue 34 of Creepy Magazine features a comic story of the Prisoner. Shane Johnson described it this way on the Aurora mail list:

The story is something of a retelling of Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado,’ and tells of a Baron Sorgi and his archrival, Lord Basti, who were vying to tax the same small populace. One gets the other drunk, chains him to the wall of a hidden wine cellar, and then is killed himself as he tries to leave the room. Both men are forgotten, and never seen again. 

I was reminded of the forgotten prisoner of Castle Mare during the last week when a story, only slightly less wretched, appeared in another section of the press. It related that a local man, Mr. Winston Agard, having been charged with theft, and perfunctorily placed on remand to await trial, spent the period of a decade in custody before being eventually afforded his day in court last week.

That there could have been such an occurrence in 21st century Barbados that boasts ever so often of punching above its weight globally beggars belief; that no heads have rolled in a system that claims adherence to the Westminster system of governance is even more astonishing; that is, at least until one recalls that ours is a mere export-model of Westminster and that the virtue of voluntary resignation is not one ordinarily to be found or practiced among the members our public service.

The Attorney General is right. The entire affair is “totally inexcusable”. And it is owed to a failure or a congeries of failures of the entire system. Of those who would have diarized the date for the resumption of his matter after the initial period of remand and then made no further inquiry as to his non-appearance on that date; by those who would have been responsible for his physical reappearance after remand; and by those in whom no suspicion would have even been aroused by an individual on remand for such an extended period, the observant prison officer who reported the anomaly excepted of course.

It seems stranger than fiction too that Mr Agard himself never raised any query as to his situation during all this time, although I do concede that I am ignorant of whether any facility existed for him to do so.

That he may be legally entitled at least to monetary compensation from the state for the great tort that has been done to him seems beyond dispute; I can think of no fewer than four of his guaranteed fundamental rights that were arguably and unjustifiably infringed in this episode: his right to personal liberty (s.13); his right to freedom of movement(s. 22); that to secure protection of the law (s. 18) and. finally, probably the right to protection from inhuman treatment (s.15).

All that remains for final determination is whether Mr Agard should be compelled to seek redress ex propio motu [of his own accord] or whether the State, despite its relative penury, should charitably make an offer of compensation to him as an admission of its vicarious snafu.

The latter seems only right.

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