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Sighs of vexation and disappointment filled the Port-of-Spain Eighth Magistrate’s Court yesterday after court prosecutor Inspector Winston Dillon objected to bail for six of his junior officers charged with misbehaviour in public office and attempting to pervert the course of public justice.
At least 15 police officers, not assigned to the court or to the Court and Process Branch, flocked to the courtroom before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar to listen to the case of six constables from the Northern Division Task Force (NEDTF).
Relatives of the six men filled the benches in the courtroom making it almost impossible for relatives of other people accused of crimes to find a seat.
After the matter was adjourned to Monday and the men told they had to spend the weekend in jail, angry police officers stormed out of the courtroom sucking their teeth, while relatives of the men were seen crying as they made their way out of the courtroom.
Attorney Vince Charles asked that special provision be put in place so that the men do not intermingle with the general prison population as the officers would have caused some of the inmates to be placed there through the execution of their duties.
Ayers-Caesar made note of the request and asked Dillon to ensure that all be done to facilitate the request.
The men have been remanded in custody until Monday as the Chief Magistrate mulls over the possibility of denying them their freedom for at least 120 days.
In objecting to bail Dillon said the officers committed the alleged acts while in possession of their service weapon and thereby breached the Amendment to the Bail Act.
Charles, who represented five of the six accused along with Wayne Sturge, argued that if the men were to be denied bail a wrong message would be sent to all police officers.
His argument was supported by Sterling John who represented one of the six.
John added that the law did not specify if the weapon had to be used or whether the accused could merely have possession of the weapon but did not use it during the commission of the offence.
He called on the prosecution to make it clear which of the two instances the men fall within before bail was considered.
Charles added: “These men are serving members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
“They were on official police business and were not on some criminal frolic with unlicensed firearms. Every police here can’t be working in fear that they could be denied bail for 120 days if someone brings an allegation against them. Their guns are legitimate tools of their trade.”
Charles said a wrong message would be sent to police officers if the men were denied bail.
He said the officers could not leave their guns lodged at the police stations before going out on duty.
Charles attempted to submit a search warrant, dated January 5, one of the days the men are alleged to have misbehaved in office, but was told that it be best kept for trial.
Yesterday’s discourse was not the first since the act became law in April last year.
In May last year, then attorney general Garvin Nicholas said the law was clear in that anyone, with licensed or unlicensed guns, who commits one of 14 offences while in possession of the gun shall be denied bail for 120 days.
Nicholas said then: “If any person is charged with committing a scheduled offence while having in their possession a firearm, the Act applies. The Bail Act has to be read in conjunction with Section 6 of the Firearms Act Chapter 16:01.”
Some of the offences which will deny someone bail if they have a gun in their possession at the time of the offence include buggery, rape, receiving stolen goods, sex with a female under 14, perverting the course of justice, robbery and arson.
It is the State’s case that the officers — Steve Williams,35, of Heights of Guanapo Road, Arima; Brandon Thompson, 25, of Seeyjagat Trace, Tumpuna Road, Arima; Ronald Samuel, 32 of Duncan Trace, San Juan: and Kevon Patrick, 30, of Kingdom Avenue Bypasss Road, Arima, misbehaved in office by threatening to charge falsely Mary Duncan, Peabo Duncan and Kimberly James for possession of cocaine.
The officers are also alleged to have falsely imprisoned and held against their will the trio and Stephan Waldron.
The officers also allegedly robbed Peabo Duncan of $53,000 and $4,200 worth of jewelry. The offences allegedly took place on January 5 at Kelly Village, Caroni.
Williams, Ryan Grandison, 27, of Tunip Lane, La Horquetta and Dion Ottley, 31, of Bon Air Gardens, Arouca, are charged with threatening to charge falsely Mark Rampersad, Farial Ramharrack and Lalieeta Ramdawan for possession of cocaine, marijuana and a gun.
The officers were also charged with robbing Rampersad of $125,000 and $55,000 worth of jewellery. All offences took place on December 12, 2015 at Frederick Settlement, Caroni.
Ottley faced two separate charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice in that he, on December 13, 2015, made a false entry into the station diary at the NEDTF office at Santa Cruz which stated that he and another officer found and seized six rounds of .38 ammunition which was found in a red face towel in a camouflage pants and they also seized 13 packets of cocaine.
The alleged find was made on December 12 according to the station diary entry. The other charge is that he, on December 12, 2015, was ordered to take six round of ammunition to the Forensic Science Centre, St James, but failed to do so and could give no reasonable explanation why.
The officers were charged by PC Kelvin Marcano and Cpl Greer Britton-Lawrence of the Professional Standards Bureau, both of whom were chastised by the Chief Magistrate fo their unprofessionalism in failing to attend court or give a reasonable excuse.