Charges recommended over discharge of Sugrim guns case

The Police Office of Professional Respon-sibility (OPR) has completed its investigations into the events that saw the illegal guns and ammunition charges against Terrence Sugrim being discharged at the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate’s Court and has recommended that charges be laid.

Terrence Sugrim
Terrence Sugrim

The file, including the recommendations for the charges against those found to be at fault, was sent to the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) several weeks ago, this newspaper was told. According to information, the file is still with the DPP.

Eleven days after the case against him was discharged at the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate’s Court because police witnesses did not show up, Sugrim on February 17, was charged again with the unlawful possession of guns and ammunition arising from a 2007 police raid and made an appearance at the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court. He was released on $300,000 bail.

Earlier, on February 6, the case against him had been discharged at the Vreed-en-Hoop court due to police witnesses not turning up.  When he was charged again, Sugrim, 43, of Parfait Harmonie, West Bank Demerara pleaded not guilty to unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

It is alleged that on June 28, 2007, at Sugrim’s home, he was found with a .32 Taurus pistol and a .32 Walther pistol, without being the holder of a firearm licence. Sugrim, was also accused of having on the same day seventy-five .32 rounds of ammunition and 85 twelve-gauge cartridges. The case is ongoing at the Wales Magistrate’s court.

When the Vreed-en-Hoop matter was discharged, Crime Chief Seelall Persaud had told this newspaper that the police OPR had launched an investigation into why police witnesses did not turn up. Among the police witnesses not turning up at the trial at Vreed-en-Hoop 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”.

Meantime, the prosecutor in the case was transferred from the court and was given desk duty at the Brickdam Police Station. However, court sources say that the prosecutor was not at fault as the witnesses did not turn up at court even though summonses had been issued and they were warned to attend court. According to one source, when the matter was discharged, about ten minutes later three of the police witnesses turned up.

Magistrate Fazil Azeez, who presides at the Vreed-en-Hoop and Leonora Magistrate’s court, where the prosecutor also worked told Stabroek News that as a result of the man’s transferral, cases are being delayed as the new prosecutor has to familiarize himself with the matters. The former prosecutor has not been given time to go back to complete the cases that he was working on, as is the norm. In some cases, the matters were at the completion stage and he had to respond to lawyers’ submissions or make his own, the Magistrate said.

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 Sugrim on $1M 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.

Shortly after his release, police had rearrested him and slapped him with the charges of illegal possession of guns and ammunition and he was then taken to the Principal Magistrate, where he was granted bail. The trial then proceeded at Vreed-en-Hoop and was discharged before he was charged for the third time.

Meantime, Magistrate Azeez once again raised the issue of security at the courts. On Monday, he said there were prisoners present in court but no police and he was told that the Vreed-en-Hoop police station was short-staffed. The Magistrate said that he had to call the Commander of ‘D’ Division, Paulette Morrison about the issue and she went to the court along with several neighbourhood police persons. She acknowledged that the Vreed-en-Hoop Police was short-staffed, Magistrate Azeez related. He said that security remains a concern. “This is terrible”, he said.

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