Police Officer conditionally sentenced for illegal firearm

PHILIPSBURG–Police officer Ashwin R.W. Martina (45), who earlier this month won his case at the Council of Appeals in Civil Service Cases against the Governor of St. Maarten concerning his dismissal almost five years ago, was sentenced Wednesday to twelve months suspended, on two years’ probation, for possession of an illegal firearm.

Then Minister of Justice Roland Duncan suspended Officer Martina on July 13, 2011, in connection with an investigation into a number of violent incidents in April 2010, and in January and July 2011.

After an investigation by the Police Department of Internal Affairs, Martina was suspended with immediate effect on July 13, 2011, based on his unsuitability to perform his duties as a police officer. He was denied access to all police buildings and terrains and had to hand over all police equipment, including his service weapons. Martina was a member of the Force since January 12, 1991.

Officer Martina was not present at the hearing of his case. His attorney Geert Hatzmann said his client was off-island. The policeman, who spent one day in detention, stood trial as he had failed to hand over his service weapon, a Walther PPK with ammunition, after he was suspended.

The weapon was found during a search of his house in a box on top of a bedroom cupboard. Part of the 40 pieces of ammunition were found in a safe.

Martina claimed he had forgotten about the weapon as it had been his service weapon from when he served as a policeman in Curaçao. When he was transferred to St. Maarten he had received a new weapon, which he had duly turned in after he was suspended.

The Prosecutor’s Office considered the case proven as the defendant should have turned his weapon in. He had violated the trust put in him and had violated his integrity, Prosecutor Karola van Nie said.

In taking into account that the weapon in itself was authorized and had not been used on the street and that the defendant was a first offender, the Prosecutor demanded 12 months, six of which were to be suspended, on two years’ probation.

In the demand it was also taken into consideration that the crime was committed in 2011 and that a conviction could lead to Martina’s dismissal from the Police Force.

The Governor of St. Maarten dismissed Martina as per October 2, 2012, for “repeated dereliction of duty,” which included several cases of mistreatment, intimidation and misconduct.

The Court of First Instance upheld the dismissal, but Martina filed for appeal. The Council of Appeals stated on March 1 that Martina’s dismissal was in conflict with the general principles of good governance. According to the Council of Appeals, it could not be ascertained that the police officer in question had been confronted with any disciplinary measures by his superiors concerning his alleged misbehaviour.

The Council also took into account that more than two years had elapsed between the 2010 and 2011 incidents and the decision for Martina’s dismissal, whereas within the police organisation only a one-year period is allowed for any disciplinary action.

The incident of July 8, 2011, in which Martina had a violent altercation with a road worker of construction company MNO on Walter Nisbeth Road, and the mistreatment of a handcuffed detainee later that month, were both considered cases of “serious dereliction of duty” and “deeply unworthy” of a police officer.

However, the Appeals Council established the dereliction of duty consisted of only one single, although very serious, legally binding “derailment,” which had not led to any criminal charges.

According to the Council, Martina had an irreproachable service record for 20 years and had not been given any counselling after the incidents. Therefore, his dismissal was considered disproportionate. His employer should have given him the opportunity to improve his behaviour before arriving at the conclusion that he was no longer suitable to work, the Council said.

The Council, therefore, nullified the dismissal decree, with the understanding that Martina will not be allowed to neglect his duties as a police officer again in the next two years. He may also have to submit himself to “a self-improvement trajectory,” the Council said.

Attorney Hatzmann pointed at the “undue delay” in handling his client’s criminal case. He said Martina had not deliberately lied about the gun. As he had already been “duly punished” the lawyer recommended a conditional sentence.

The Judge said the case itself was not complicated, but imposing a penalty was. It was decided to impose a fully conditional sentence, which means that Martina may return to the Force, albeit on a two-year probation period

Source: The Daily Herald Police Officer conditionally sentenced for illegal firearm