A police officer who is currently facing misbehaviour charges in the conduct of his duties was on Tuesday contradicted by one of his former colleagues in a malicious prosecution trial brought by three men who were arrested and charged during the failed 2011 state of emergency.
The three men – who asked that their names not be used because of the stigma associated with the charges they previously faced – are from Cumana, Toco, and were charged on August 30, 2011, with being members of an unknown gang by Cpl Junior Bernard.
Three months after they were charged, the gang charges against the trio were dismissed by a Sangre Grande magistrate after the prosecution said there was no reasonable prospect of conviction for the offences against the men.
In their claim for compensation, the men said they suffered 63 days of loss of liberty and suffered mental and physical pain as well as faced the stigma of being accused of being gang members who were involved in criminal activities.
The trial of their claim was held at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain before Justice Frank Seepersad yesterday when Bernard and his former colleague Cpl Verson Jeanville testified.
Bernard claimed he and Jeanville were on surveillance on August 19, in Cumana, when they saw the men selling marijuana. He said he knew the men to be members of a gang involved in the trafficking of narcotics.
However, Jeanville said he never conducted surveillance with Bernard on either August 19 or August 24.
“It would not be true to say that I was with him conducting surveillance and I saw them engaging in the sale of narcotics.
“That would be false. If that occurred I would have effected an arrest,” Jeanville testified. He also said he has had previous interactions with Bernard. He also admitted he was a witness in Bernard’s case and gave a statement saying he was instructed by him, on two occasions, to fabricate evidence as it related to a search warrant and he refused to comply.
However, he also testified that in relation to the gang charges against the trio, he was never asked by Bernard to engage in similar conduct.
In his testimony, Bernard insisted that Jeanville was with him conducting surveillance on August 19 and 24.
Confronted with Jeanville’s earlier testimony, Bernard said, “If he said that it would be untrue.”
He said he supposed there was an “outstanding” issue causing Jeanville to adopt a particular course in matters.
Bernard also said Jeanville would have given comprehensive statements as to his involvement in the surveillance activities both of them carried out.
He also admitted to knowing the men for several years and had on numerous occasions had cause to conduct searches of their homes and stop them in roadblocks. Nothing illegal was ever found on the men nor were they ever charged for an offence.
Earlier at the hearing, the men’s attorney Vashist Maharaj was allowed to refer to a Court of Appeal ruling in which a conviction was overturned based on allegations that Bernard had tampered with evidence.
In that matter, Jeanville gave a statement and it was this that led to the misbehaviour charges being laid against his colleague.
Seepersad has directed attorneys to file submissions on issues of law relating to malicious prosecution as well as Bernard’s credit worthiness.
He said the court had concerns on the approach to adopt in light of the allegations against the policeman. He will give his decision on October 29.