Attorneys threaten top cop over detention: Free SORT head

SORT head Insp Mark Hernandez.  - FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB
SORT head Insp Mark Hernandez. - FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB

ATTORNEYS for head of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) Insp Mark Hernandez were preparing an application to rush to court late on Friday, in an attempt to get him released from police custody.

Earlier on Friday, they gave Police Commissioner until 4 pm that day, to release him, threatening to go to the High Court for a writ of habeas corpus for the commissioner to justify Hernandez’s continued detention.

Up to late on Friday, his attorneys were awaiting a response from Commissioner Gary Griffith.

Newsday understands the team of attorneys were expected to file late on Friday but up to 8 pm, there was no word on whether or not this was done. Hernandez has been in custody since about 6.45 am on Wednesday.

Attorney Wayne Sturge said the SORT head has been “incarcerated for in excess of 53 hours, far beyond the reasonable common law limitation for the detention of a citizen without charge.”

Hernandez was taken from his home on Wednesday by officers of the Professional Standards Bureau for an interview relating to an ongoing investigation into the deaths of the two suspects held for the abduction and murder of court clerk Andrea Bharatt.

Sturge said officers “arrested” his client, who has not yet been charged with any offence. Police insisted Hernandez, one of a dozen SORT officers interviewed, had not been arrested. Also questioned were members of the Defence Force.
Hernandez was detained at Pinto police station and later transferred to the St Joseph Police Station for an identification parade.

Attorney Wayne Sturge who is seeking Insp Mark Hernandez's interests. - Photo by Sureash Cholai

Sturge told Griffith it appeared that Hernandez was interviewed with the expectation that he “would reveal evidence that would allow him to self-incriminate himself in the commission of criminal offences” so that he could be charged.

Sturge said this was “clearly unlawful in the extreme.” He added, “My client has been the subject of this type of action since the time that he subjected himself to this interview process.


“What has been pellucidly clear is that, at present, the investigating officers have no evidence that my client was involved in the commission of any criminal offence

“The further deprivation of my client’s liberty in those circumstances is clearly unlawful.”

In a pre-action protocol letter, Sturge said, “Officers of the TT police service have had more than two and a half months to investigate this incident and to date there are still unable to obtain evidence that my client was involved in the commission of any offence arising out of this incident.”

Newsday understands that Hernandez and a woman police constable were to be put on identification parades on Friday but Newsday was told on Friday evening by a police source, that the police officer put in charge of conducting the identification parades was only told so on Friday morning and could not find enough “tall, red men” to match Hernandez’s physique.

Women also could not be found to match the height, complexion and build of the female officer, resulting in the cancellation of the ID parades.

Police sources said there is still the option of a group identification where suspects are placed in a public setting and a witness is made to identify them.
Following the failure to conduct the identification parade, attorneys representing the female officer said they too will be filing a writ of habeas corpus for her release.

Sturge told Griffith that while the police had the powers to investigate the commission of any criminal offence, and do so in the public interest, they cannot do it in an unlawful manner.

Morris and Balcon were held by SORT hours apart on January 30 in connection with the kidnapping of Bharatt. Morris died two days after being arrested, and Balcon eight days later.

Autopsies concluded that they both died from blunt force trauma. Their relatives claimed police had beaten them to death. Bharatt’s body was found in the Heights of Aripo on February 4 after she went missing on January 29. Negus George has been charged with her murder.

Members of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit have also been questioned as part of the continuing investigation, led by ASP Williams.

Hernandez is represented by a team of attorneys, including Sturge, Mario Merritt and John Heath.

Additional reporting by JENSEN LA VENDE


"Attorneys threaten top cop over detention: Free SORT head"

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