Sloppy police work leads to acquittal for gun possession

POSTED: 11/15/12 1:13 PM

St. Maarten – Sloppy police work resulted in the acquittal of 29-year-old Norwin Adelbert W. in the Court in First Instance yesterday. The defendant stood accused of firearm possession, but after hearing the arresting police officers as witnesses, Judge Tamara Tijhuis threw out the charges, because it remained unclear whether W. had given the officers permission to search his car.

On August 1, W. was driving over the hill towards Cole Bay. After he overtook a car and sped up a bit, a police patrol decided to follow him and eventually stop him at the Kruijthoff roundabout. During a search of the car, the officers found a firearm. W. denied in court that he had given the officers permission to search his car, reason for Judge Tijhuis to hear the officers as witnesses in court.

A gum chewing 30-year-old male police officer told the court that the reason for stopping the car was that it had tinted windows and that it had started speeding upon spotting the patrol car. After he removed his gum at the judge’s order, the officer said that he had asked the defendant in Papiamento permission to search his car, and that W. had answered, “No problem.”

His 25-year-old female fellow officer however, told the court she had heard him ask W. in English for permission to search the car, that she did not hear the defendant’s answer and that she does not understand Papiamento.

“But you signed the police report stating that the defendant gave us permission for the search,” defense attorney Shaira Bommel pointed out. The female officer said that she had read the report only fleetingly before signing it.

W. maintained in court that he had not given permission for the search.

“If you did not give permission to search the car there was no reason to do so and then the weapon has to be excluded from evidence,” Judge Tijhuis said after she had adjourned the court session briefly to think things through. “The statements of the witnesses show discrepancies to such an extent that the officer’s statement that you gave permission carries insufficient weight. Against this background it is not plausible that you gave permission and therefore you are acquitted.”

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