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Suspended prison sentence for former police officer convicted of sexual assault

A former police officer was given a suspended prison sentence yesterday for a sexual assault on a former colleague.

Jermari Belboda, 27, appeared in Magistrates Court for sentencing after he unsuccessfully appealed his conviction this year. He committed the offence while he was a serving officer.

Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo said that, as far as sexual assault cases went, this one was “particularly unpleasant” for him to oversee.

He told the court: “It involves colleagues, friends [and] police officers.”

Belboda was found guilty in August 2020 for inappropriately touching a woman constable, who cannot be named for legal reasons, while she slept.

The incident happened in Pembroke in the early hours of December 5, 2018. Belboda was a serving police officer at the time.

Belboda told Magistrates Court, and later the Court of Appeal, that he believed the woman was awake and consenting, and had stopped when she did not respond when he called her name.

But Mr Tokunbo said that the evidence pointed to the contrary.

He said: “I believe the defendant found himself in the night in a tempting and opportune predicament, perhaps bolstered by the defendant, to use his own words, ‘feeling nice’.

“I believe the defendant yielded to temptation to the opportunity of the circumstances he found himself in and thought he would, using his words again, ‘test the waters’.”

Karen King-Deane, for the Crown, said that a conviction of this nature would warrant “an immediate custodial sentence” of about five years.

She added that Belboda’s appeal had pushed the offence beyond the threshold of imprisonment and instead asked for a suspended prison sentence.

Elizabeth Christopher, for the defence, said that her client was of previous good character and had lost his job with the Bermuda Police Service because of the incident.

She added that there was “a certain type of naivete on his part” that led to the offence.

Mr Tokunbo sentenced Belboda to a year’s imprisonment, but suspended it for two years “in the hope that you can give further reflection on your role in this offence and not make assumptions and take risks like that”.

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