PORT OF SPAIN –– It was a chaotic scene outside the Sangre Grande Magistrates’ Court yesterday morning as dozens of people gathered on the roadway in front of the courthouse to catch a glimpse of the 12 police officers who are charged with their alleged involvement in burning a prisoner with hot water in late February.
Screams of “Don’t hide them!”, “Let them walk out!”, “Why are you protecting them wicked officers so?” echoed throughout the scene yesterday, even while officers of the Eastern Division Task Force, under the supervision of Senior Superintendent Sacenarine Mahabir, lined the entrance to the First Court where the 12 officers were expected to appear.
Woman SRP Giselle Skeete, Acting Inspector Kenneth Rampersad, Acting Corporal Allan Khan, PC Anil Mootoo, PC Keron Nanan, PC Joel Boodoosingh, SRP Ryan Williams, PC Ashki Charles, PC Marvin Mendosa, SRP Sergeant Glen Elder, Acting Corporal Ravi Doon, and Corporal Nicholas Vialva all appeared before Magistrate Alexander Prince at the Sangre Grande First Court.
Skeete, Rampersad, Khan, Mootoo, Nanan, Boodoosingh, Williams, Charles and Mendosa were charged with misbehaviour in public office.
Elder and Doon were charged with perverting the course of public justice.
Charges against these 11 were laid indictably and they were not called upon to enter a plea.
Vialva, however, was charged summarily for failing to act after receiving information.
He pleaded not guilty to this charge.
The arrests of the police officers on March 29, stemmed from an incident involving Andrew Lewis from Boystown, Sangre Grande, who gave himself up to police at the Sangre Grande Police Station on February 25 for questioning in a house-breaking and larceny matter.
The Express was told Lewis refused to budge when questioned about the alleged theft of a weed whacker and it was alleged the accused police officers then stripped Lewis, heated a bowl of water in a microwave oven and threw the boiling water on his lower extremities and stomach, burning him in the process.
The state was represented yesterday by attorney Richard Taylor.
Taylor will be representing the interests of the state until a prosecutor can be appointed to oversee the matter.
Attorneys Shade Lee Duprey, Patrick Godson Phillips, and Shivan Jadoo represented the interests of the accused.
The attorneys all successfully made applications for their clients to be granted reasonable bail, but Magistrate Prince did so under the conditions that none of the accused persons go near the virtual complainant (Andre Lewis), staying at least 100 metres away from him at all times and even his home. Other conditions were also implemented.
Sergeant Vialva was granted bail at $20,000, due to the nature of the allegation laid against him.
The other 11 accused were all granted bail at $250,000 each.
Representatives for all the accused, said to be relatives, all stood behind them when they were called to be granted bail. They were previously out on station bail.
The matters were adjourned to May 5.
By this time, a large crowd had gathered outside of the Magistrates’ Court hopeful of seeing the officers as they exited the building.
Several of these persons levied claims of police brutality against officers who were stationed at the Sangre Grande station and the officers who were before the court, and they loudly professed that they hoped that the police would “get their just due”.
As a result of the large crowd on the roadway, which had begun to affect the free flow of traffic on the street in front of the court house, a decision was made by senior officers in the Eastern Division to utilize two heavily tinted police vehicles to transport the accused officers from the courthouse.
This came under heavy protests from citizens gathered outside the courthouse who declared that they too should be granted similar rights to “hide from the public” if they were ever brought before the courts.
“Why they getting any special treatment? Shame! When they claim somebody do something wrong, they want to put those persons faces all over the news and papers, yet when it’s one of their own they trying to hide them? Na, man! How is that fair?” asked one of the persons gathered.