Court slams police officer for ill-treating woman

POSTED: 05/31/12 1:09 PM

Defendant acquitted of drunk driving charges

St. Maarten – The Zero Tolerance-concept took an unexpected turn in the Court in First Instance when Judge mr. Koen Luijks condemned the actions of a police officer against a 32-year-old bar manager whom he arrested on April 30 on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Defense attorney mr. Shaira Bommel accused police officers of lying in their police reports about the incident, a charge that went too far according to prosecutor mr. Hans Mos. But when the smoke cleared and Judge Luijks rendered his verdict the bar manager was acquitted of all charges, while the arresting police officer got the blame.

“I think that officer Boyrard went too far.”

The defendant in the case is bar manager Ester van Kippersluis who said at the end of the trial that she intends to leave St. Maarten and that she will never come back again.

The police patrol that spotted the defendant on the Octavius Rich Road near the hospital on April 30, one of the last days of the Carnival and the Queen’s birthday celebrations, claimed that she was driving erratically. The defendant said in court that she had been avoiding a pothole.

When the Zero Tolerance patrol stopped the defendant’s car, they immediately demanded that she hand over her keys. When she refused, the keys were taken by force; according to the defendant she was dragged barefoot by her hair from her car onto the gravel road and handcuffed. A painful experience, Van Kippersluis noted; she had taken off her shoes because she had blisters on her feet. She was also dressed in not more than a bikini.

She told the court that the arresting officer had hit her; the police report states that the defendant bit the officer and kicked him in his stomach while she was lying handcuffed on the backseat of the police car.

At the police station, the defendant was repeatedly told to stop talking to other people that had been arrested and to stand with her face to the wall. She was then forcefully taken to a police cell for refusing to follow these orders. The whole episode ended with charges for driving under the influence, ill-treating a police officer and resisting arrest.

Prosecutor Mos said that the defendant showed all the hallmarks of being under the influence: smelling of alcohol, unsteady on her legs, bloodshot eyes (“from crying,” Van Kippersluis said), and talking with difficulty.

“All this indicates that you had been drinking and you also reacted rather peculiar.”

The defendant told the court that she had asked the police to put her on a breathalyzer or to do a blood test to establish that she was not under the influence of alcohol. This was refused. Prosecutor Mos said that his office is in favor of introducing breathalyzers, but that so far this has not happened.

“However,” he noted, “you could also be unfit to drive a car after drinking just one glass of alcohol.”

After the police stopped the defendant and arrested her all hell broke loose, the prosecutor said. “But that was because you refused to listen.”

Mos said that officer Boyrard had written in his report that he had hit the defendant.

“I’ll take that into consideration.”

The prosecutor asked the court to revoke the defendant’s driver’s license for 6 months, to impose a 1 month conditional prison sentence with 2 years of probation and a $1,000 fine.

“I doubt the police reports,” attorney Bommel told the court.

“I have experienced it before that officers are too liberal with their statements. Colleagues are not going to betray each other. They are protecting each other. The violence that was used against my client is disproportional. I have filed a complaint about this with the department of internal affairs to investigate Boyrard’s behavior. This was not a matter of hitting her once or twice. This was ill-treatment.”

mr. Bommel said that there is no proof that her client had driven under the influence. She asked the court for an acquittal on this charge.

“This should not get crazier than this. If my client bit him there ought to be at least a medical report or a picture that shows the injuries. Not Boyrard, but my client has been ill-treated,” the attorney said about Boyrard’s complaint that Van Kippersluis had ill-treated him.

mr. Bommel also contested that Van Kippersluis resisted arrest.

“Where is the resistance? My client suffers from asthma attacks, so when she was thrown in the police car she pleaded with the officers to open a window. And they refused. This was a traumatic experience. That a woman is ill-treated this way by the police is shameful. If you are unable to trust the police anymore, who else is there to trust?”

The attorney said that her client had decided to leave St. Maarten and to never come back.

Prosecutor Mos objected to the attorney’s allegation that the officers had lied in their police reports.

“That’s quite something you are saying there; that is going too far,” he said.

Judge Luijks pronounced his ruling immediately, and it was all in favor of the defendant.

“I acquit you of all charges. There may be legal proof, but it is not convincing,” he said.

The judge ruled that it has not been established that the defendant was driving under the influence, and that the colleague who had confirmed the perceived ill-treatment of Boyrard by the defendant had only stated that she had attempted to bite him.

“There is no proof that she actually bit the officer.”

mr. Luijks put the allegation that van Kippersluis had kicked the officer in the context of the wrestling party between the two.

“You defended yourself against what Boyrard did to you.”

At the police station officers forbade the defendant to talk or to scream and to stand with her face toward a wall. These allegations led to the charge that van Kippersluis resisted orders from police officers.

“I do not know where the police get the authority to force you to do these things. I think that officer Boyrard went too far.”

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