THE judge sentencing a police officer charged with fraud for altering a sick leave certificate said yesterday convicted officers were tarnishing the entire Police Service.
“When one police officer acts badly, people don’t say that police officer is bad, they say ‘them police’,” Justice Carla Brown-Antoine said.
Two weeks ago, a jury found constable Nigel Ramlal guilty of forgery and uttering a forged document.
The offence occurred in 2006.
Ramlal had 20 years’ service as a police officer at the time of the charge, and was out on $20,000 bail before the trial ended.
Brown-Antoine said, “Police officers are trained to uphold the law. They are there to protect and serve with pride. One would anticipate and expect that police officers would be persons who uphold the law, persons who are upstanding members of society.
“Of course, no one is perfect... In any profession one can fail, but the point is when these things happen, when they come to light, when police officers are found committing offences and are actually convicted, it tarnishes the whole Police Service because the result is people say ‘the police’. Everybody gets painted with the same brush because of the actions of one person.”
In mitigating on Ramlal’s behalf, defence attorney Subhas Panday contended that his client was in a drunken stupor at the time of the offence, and asked the court not to treat his continuous denial of the act as an aggravating factor.
“The reason why that remorse was not forthcoming is that, having regard to the history of the accused, he was an alcoholic, he was in a drunken stupor most of the time. In these circumstances, he was not a sober man saying ‘I sure I didn’t do it’.”
Panday added, “After he was charged, it became worse and he became a vagrant. He was an alcoholic... sleeping on the pavement. He really went to the bottom. However, about five years ago, somebody from the church came and rescued him... They took him to the church and he became involved in church activities. As though there was divine intervention, he stopped the alcohol and since then he has been on the straight course.”
Panday said Ramlal was married and was a preacher at the church, and also the lead singer in the choir and the captain of the cricket team.
The judge said she had received the most recommendations ever for one person, and that photos were included.
Panday asked that his client be given 100 hours community service and suggested he be assigned to a home for the aged or a home for battered women, where he could paint or clean.
On the issue of a fine, Panday said his client was unemployed, having lost his job.
State attorney Veonna Neale-Monroe disagreed with community service for the former police officer, and called for a term of imprisonment.
The maximum sentence for this offence is two years.
Neale-Monroe started with a sentence of 18 months, which she reduced to 15 months after she outlined the mitigating and aggravating factors of the offence and the offender.
She said the offences for which Ramlal was found guilty were dishonest and prevalent in society. She added there was a level of planning involved, and he was a serving member of the Police Service and in a position of trust at the time of the criminal offence. “It is an indictment on the Police Service,” Neale-Monroe said.
Ramlal is expected to be sentenced before the Port of Spain High Court next Thursday.
State attorney Victoria Manun appeared alongside Neale-Monroe in the case; while attorney Aleena Ramjag appeared with Panday to defend Ramlal.
On the morning of July 25, 2006, constables Lambert and Slater were at the Point Fortin Police Station when a relative of Ramlal handed in a sick leave application and medical certificate.
The information was recorded in the police station diary and sick leave application was submitted to the sergeant at the station.
On August 5, 2006, the medical certificate and sick leave application came to the attention of Assistant Commissioner of Police Samuel Jemmott whose responsibilities included looking at sick leave applications for police officers.
Manun said Jemmott observed what appeared to be a zero added to the number six and “ty” added to the word “six”.
He made a report to the Fraud Squad.
Officer Kent Ghisyawan investigated and went to Ramal’s home. He told Ramlal the doctor who issued the sick leave said it was for six days. This was denied by Ramlal, who insisted it was for 60 days.
Ghisyawan recorded an interview note, which Ramlal signed.
Ramlal was also asked for a specimen of his handwriting, and he wrote on two sheets of paper and handed over an application for a driving permit form which had his handwriting. These along with a handwriting specimen from the doctor were submitted to Forensic Science Centre for analysis. The forensic analyst found there were alterations and that a different pen was used.
Ramlal did not take the witness stand in the matter, which lasted one week.