Bus driver: ‘I feel let down by the system’

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  • <B>Let down:</B> Bus driver Dwain Smith was threatened with a hammer. He feels the man who threatened to attack him was let off with a

    Let down: Bus driver Dwain Smith was threatened with a hammer. He feels the man who threatened to attack him was let off with a "slap on the wrist".
    (Photo by Mark Tatem)

A bus passenger who threatened a driver with a hammer in a fit of rage got a “slap on the wrist” sentence this week, according to the victim.

Dwain Smith said his attacker, Denton Parris, deserved “at least three years in prison” for the attack, which happened in front of a bus full of passengers.

Mr Smith, 44, also called for video cameras to be installed on buses and ferries, and tougher punishments for those who assault public transportation workers.

The Royal Gazette reported yesterday how Parris — who has a long history of violent crimes including robbery, punching a woman and carrying a machete — attacked Mr Smith around 8pm on October 15 at Hamilton bus terminal.

He tried to board the bus using an expired three-day pass, and threatened Mr Smith with the hammer after he ordered him off the vehicle. Parris later claimed that former police officer Mr Smith was discriminating against him because of his criminal past.

He was set free by Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo who sentenced him to the time he’d already served in prison since his arrest on October 15.

Recalling the frightening experience yesterday, Mr Smith, a father-of-two from Hamilton Parish, said: “I did not know that gentleman prior to that night. Yes, I am an ex police officer but I had never had any dealings with Mr Parris and did not know about his previous convictions.

“I was concerned for my safety, as I was sitting down in the driver’s seat and he raised the hammer above me. It all happened very fast and I had to react so he would not cause harm to me. The bus was full of passengers including visitors to our Island and I was embarrassed for them and for the general public and for the young people on board. It was a very embarrassing incident.”

A member of the public who knew Parris intervened to stop the attack. Police were notified and they arrested the culprit a short time later in City Hall parking lot.

“From the moment he brandished that weapon, I was determined I would press charges,” said Mr Smith.

Appearing in Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, Parris, 42, from Sandys, denied a charge of possessing an offensive weapon in an increased penalty zone, which was accepted by the Crown. He pleaded guilty to using threatening words to Mr Smith, and could have got up to six months in jail.

Mr Smith said of the “time served” punishment meted out: “The court system is too lax when it comes to these sorts of incidents. I believe [that for attacks on] the bus and ferry operators and anyone else who has to deal with the public, the same sentences should be imposed as if it was an attack on a police officer.

“I think the punishment in this case is a joke to be honest with you. I would have liked to see him get at least three years in prison, especially because he has a very violent past. What he was given is no deterrent whatsoever.”

Mr Smith added he would like video cameras installed on all public vehicles “for the protection of our operators and the passengers”.

Mr Smith was a policeman for eight years before working as an entrepreneur and started work as a bus operator around 18 months ago. He considers himself an “ambassador for Bermuda” and has never experienced such an incident before.

Now he is concerned that Parris is out of prison and free to travel on the buses again.

“It would be intimidating and I would be in fear of my own personal safety. There’s nothing to prevent him from doing it again,” he said. “I feel let down by the system.”

The Bermuda Industrial Union plans to meet Government officials next week to discuss the safety of public transport workers.

“I am just sitting and waiting to hear what the outcome will be as to whether we will be better protected,” said Mr Smith.

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Published Nov 9, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 9, 2012 at 1:17 am)

Bus driver: ‘I feel let down by the system’

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