Why did police witnesses not show up in Sugrim case?

The Police Office of Professional Responsibility has launched an investigation into why police witnesses in the Terrence Sugrim illegal arms and ammunition matter did not turn up in court, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud says.

Sugrim, who had been facing charges of unlawful possession of arms and ammunition, had the case against him discharged by Magistrate Fazil Azeez at the Vreed-en-Hoop Court on Friday. The magistrate had stated that the matter was called on numerous occasions with no police witness present despite them being informed.

Contacted yesterday, Persaud said that an investigation has been launched into the issue. Meantime, Com-mander of ‘D’ Division, Paulette Morrison, while stating that she had no comment on the matter, pointed out that the case was discharged and not dismissed and could be recalled at any time.

Sugrim, 43, of Lot 91 Parfait-Harmonie, West Bank Demerara, who also goes by the name Roy Alvarez as well as several other aliases was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of arms and ammunition.

It was alleged that on June 28, 2007 at Lot 91 Parfait Harmonie, he had in his possession two firearms, that is to say, one .32 Taurus Pistol (serial number FUH 83964) and a .32 Walther Pistol number 452067 without being the holder of a firearm licence. It was also alleged that on the same date and place, he had in his possession 75 rounds of .32 ammunition and 85 12-gauge cartridges without being the holder of a firearm licence. He had pleaded not guilty to both charges when he had earlier appeared before Principal Magistrate Melissa Robertson and had been granted bail in the sum of $1M.

This newspaper had been informed that among the police witnesses not turning up was the main witness, Detective Sergeant Mitchell Baron. Stabroek News was told that Baron had left the Guyana Police Force some time ago and is “out of the jurisdiction”. The success of the case is said to have hinged upon his testimony but he never gave evidence in Sugrim’s matter.

Sugrim was wanted by United States authorities to face trial for allegedly conspiring to traffic in narcotics. He had been arrested in a police operation and an extradition hearing was held. Following the hearing at the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, Magistrate Hazel Octive-Hamilton had committed him into custody to await extradition to the US to face trial for allegedly conspiring to traffic in narcotics.

However, on April 17 last year, Justice Jainarayan Singh Jr. released him on bail in the High Court following a habeas corpus application by his legal team. Stemming from the application filed by Sugrim’s legal team, Justice Singh found that many factual errors were made by the magistrate during the hearing and they were serious enough transgressions to render her rulings in relation to the committal unlawful and unfair. Bail was granted in the sum of $1M.

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