AT least 35 cases were dismissed against one of the suspects in the abduction of 22-year-old Andrea Bharatt because police failed to appear in court, his former attorney is claiming.
Bharatt was abducted on January 29 after she got into a fake taxi to take her to her Arima home. Police, Defence Force, hunters and hikers have been searching the Sangre Grande forests looking for the court clerk. Two rewards totalling $75,000 have been offered for information leading to her return.
On Tuesday the Express reported that the 36-year-old had 70 pending charges. a claim that lawyer Ian Brooks, in an attorneys' WhatsApp group chat, sought to correct.
Brooks confirmed with Newsday in a telephone interview that he posted the clarification in the chat. He said up to last year some 15-17 charges against his former client had been dismissed.
After the article appeared, many people took to social media to criticise the courts for granting the suspect bail while facing 70 charges.
In response, Brooks said: "The persons to be blamed for this situation are not the lawyers nor the courts. The court was pressing to start, the lawyer was ready.
"The police bungled over 35 matters by police inaction. No file, no police readiness and other police inaction."
The suspect's criminal records showed of the 70 charges against him 23 were dismissed between 2010 and 2016, and 46 were pending. One was listed as "appeal dismissed."
Brooks claims some of the matters still listed as pending have been dismissed.
The suspect was charged in 2004 with his first offence. Three years later he was charged again. In 2008 he was charged with five offences, two the following year and 18 in 2011. In 2012 he was charged with seven offences, one in 2013, seven in 2014 and 15 in 2015. Two years later he was charged with nine offences.
His first case was dismissed in 2010, three in 2013 and another in 2014. In 2015 two cases were dismissed and in 2016, 16 matters were dismissed.
In the message in the chat, Brooks wrote: "He was in custody without bail for a lengthy period of time, over two years to March/April 2017. He then had about 18 matters dismissed for non-appearance by the police complaints and was granted bail. In this period of incarceration he was taken to court only 3 times out of over 12 scheduled appearances."
In the phone interview, Brooks said that matters were dismissed at the Arima, San Fernando, Chaguanas and Scarborough magistrates' courts. He said the reason for the multiple matters being thrown out was a lack of police appearances in court.
In its annual report for 2019, the Police Service Commission (PSC) said 1,843 cases thrown out by magistrates because police failed to attend hearings.
The report said of the cases that were dismissed, 793 were for serious crimes. Included in this category are gun possession, rape and other sexual assaults, attempted murder and kidnapping for ransom.
Between 2015 and 2019 a total of 7,659 cases were dismissed solely on the basis of non-appearance of police officers, the PSC reported
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, on assuming office in August 2018, sought to ensure that officers attended court, resulting in a 97 per cent reduction in absenteeism between 2019 and 2020 for the period April-June.