Sisters charged with cop assault after fight breaks out on bus

By Shakisa Harvey

Two sisters were yesterday accused of assaulting a policewoman, resisting arrest and behaving disorderly after a fight aboard a minibus landed them at a police station.

Natasha and Jenell Sancho, 18, and 17, respectively, both of 23 Sideline Dam, Buxton, East Coast Demerara, were each charged with one count of assaulting a peace officer, resisting arrest and disorderly behaviour when they appeared in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.

They were eventually each granted their release on $60,000 bail despite a plea to the court to consider their family’s meagre means.

After the three charges were read to Natasha, she pleaded not guilty and was granted $20, 000 on each of the three charges, prompting activist Mark Benschop, who was in the courtroom at the time, to intervene.

Benschop, who placed his hand in the air indicating that he wanted to say something, was given a chance to speak after presiding Magistrate Judy Latchman enquired who he was and what he wanted to say since the matter did not concern him.

Having been granted permission from the court to speak, Benschop informed that the mother of the teens, with whom he was earlier conversing, had left the courtroom in a bid to contact the lawyer she had retained for her daughters.

Benschop, in a passionate plea for the court to rethink its decision on bail, said the girls’ family is of meagre means and would not be able to afford bail in the amount set.  He noted too that the girls’ mother had to find $40,000 the previous day for station bail and the additional financial strain on her.

He said too that the charges levelled against the teenagers were far from the truth and that this should be ascertained from them.

Cautioning him however that he was not present on the day in question and would not know what transpired, the court gave Jenell a chance to speak. She related that on the day in question she and her sister were travelling in a minibus when a group of girls who were passengers in the said vehicle began taunting her sister, calling her “big head” and “hard face.” According to Jenell, this led to an exchange of words between them and the other young ladies and a fight ensued.

She further explained that the disturbance in the bus caused the driver to take them to the police station. Once there, Jenell said, officer Beckles, who was in plain clothes, accosted her, pushing and slapping her in the face. During this time, she said, she was unaware Beckles was a police officer.

She said Beckles then exclaimed, “Yuh want fight…” before dragging her and her sister upstairs, pushing them in a corner and placing them in handcuffs.

Natasha, who was then asked to speak, continued her sister’s story, telling the court the officer abused them with a series of expletives before complaining to her superior at the station that she had been assaulted and abused by the defendants. They were then charged.

But officer Beckles, who was present at the hearing, related that on the day in question she was in the compound of the Ruimveldt Police Station when a minibus drove into the yard with a loud commotion coming from within.

According to her, acting on the information related by the bus driver, she went around the bus to where the defendants were seated and said to them, “Young ladies, y’all are not sounding good. Conduct yourselves”.

Beckles said that the sisters then began using a series of expletives and that if they were taken to court they “will fabricate a whole story.”

“It was embarrassing,” Beckles said.

Attorney Kevon Bess, who appeared amicus curiae for the defendants, made an application for reasonable bail, telling the court that “the situation could have been handled a bit better. Given the hostility in the young ladies as a result of the fight, if the Sergeant had behaved better the outcome would have been different”.

After the prosecution declined to object, the magistrate set bail in the sum of $20,000 for each of the three charges for both sisters, amounting to a total sum of $60,000 bail each.

The matter will be called again on July 5.

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