Reliability police reports bone of contention in court

POSTED: 09/21/12 1:13 PM

GREAT BAY – The reliability of police reports took center stage yesterday morning during the trial of Norvin Adelbert W., who was caught in the possession of a loaded firearm and ten rounds of ammunition on August 1. The case hinges on the question whether the defendant gave police officers permission to search his car. If this turns out not to be the case, the charges will have to be dropped. Judge mr. Tamara Tijhuis postponed the case until November 14 to hear the police officers about what happened.

While prosecutor mr. Gonda van der Wulp maintained that the police officers had written their police report under their oath of office – and that this report therefore carries more weight that statements by the defendant, his attorney mr. Shaira Bommel questioned the police report’s reliability. “I have seen more than once that police reports were not written according to the truth.”

She got unexpected support from Judge Tijhuis. “One must be able to rely on sworn police reports, but the experience teaches us that this is not always the case,” she said.

The judge saw reason to postpone the case and to hear the police officers in court.

According to the police report, W. was stopped on August 1, after he had overtaken a car upon seeing a police patrol car, and he had subsequently started to drive faster. Officers checked the defendant’s papers – that were in order – and then asked him to step out of the car.

From that point on, there are two versions of what happened next. The defendant maintains that he was simply asked to get out of his car. Police officers wrote in their report that they asked him permission to search his car and that the defendant gave it.

“After his arrest I have advised my client to use his right to remain silent,” mr. Bommel said. “But later he has consistently said that he never gave permission to search his car.”

W. said that he owns two businesses and that he had applied for a gun permit.

The attorney triggered an angry reaction from prosecutor Van der Wulp when she said that she happened to be driving behind the police car that evening. “My client was driving normally,” she said. He did not increase his speed after he overtook the other car. The search of his car is unlawful and he has to be acquitted.”

“This is not permitted,” the prosecutor retorted. “The attorney should have asked the officers in for questioning. They wrote a sworn report and that carries more weight.”

But Judge Tijhuis was not convinced and decided to postpone the case until November.


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