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Sacked policeman to appeal court’s backing of decision

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A sacked police officer who lost a legal battle to get his job back is to appeal the decision.

Victoria Greening, the lawyer for Oswin Pereira, claimed his case was of “huge public interest” as it concerned whether decisions of the Public Service Commission, a constitutional body, could be overturned.

Lawyer Victoria Greening (Photograph supplied)

Mr Pereira was fired after he was accused of striking a teenage suspect with a baton and turning off his body camera.

The officer was acquitted of a criminal charge of unlawful wounding of the teenager after a Magistrates’ Court trial in July 2018.

But he was booted out of the Bermuda Police Service in January last year after a disciplinary panel ruled he had used excessive force.

Mr Pereira successfully appealed the decision to the PSC, which found in August last year that he should not have been fired for gross misconduct as there was no evidence to support the panel's finding that he unlawfully assaulted the teen.

But Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley challenged the PSC’s finding with a judicial review in the Supreme Court and won the case in February.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams said Mr Pereira’s firing was justified because he "wilfully and dishonesty turned off his body cam … to prevent access to any evidence of video footage of the events which transpired after he turned off the body cam“.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams

She said: “Such conduct is the very antithesis of what is expected of a police officer performing his duties honestly and with integrity.”

Mr Corbishley welcomed the Supreme Court decision.

He said: “The public must have confidence that those police officers serving Bermuda are honest and professional.”

Mr Pereira has filed an appeal against Mrs Justice Williams’s ruling and it is scheduled to be heard by the Court of Appeal next month.

Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The former officer, who has not worked since he was sacked, asked to conduct the appeal as a “poor person” so he does not have to provide security for costs to the court if he loses.

The first ground of appeal is a claim that the judge "erred in law when she intervened with the PSC’s decision, which is final and shall not be subject to the direction and control of any other person or authority unless the decision can be considered perverse or there has been an obvious error of law“.

Ms Greening, of Resolution Chambers, said: “This appeal, particularly ground one, is a matter of huge public interest, and, if discontinued due to lack of funding, would amount to a serious denial of access to justice.”

She claimed: “This is particularly in light of the fact that the PSC are reluctant to pursue the appeal in their own right and defend the PSC's constitutional status and are not hiring independent legal counsel to do so.”

The other grounds for appeal include a claim that the judge erred in law by misconstruing a test case and that the PSC failed to instruct independent legal counsel for the judicial review proceedings, because they used the same lawyer – Richard Horseman – who advised them on Pereira’s original appeal against his dismissal.

The police did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Horseman said he had spoken to PSC chairman Gregory Swan and “as the matter is before the court, it would not be appropriate for any comment to be made at this time”.

Mr Pereira could not be contacted.

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Published May 24, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated May 25, 2021 at 11:48 am)

Sacked policeman to appeal court’s backing of decision

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