Leader of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT), Inspector Mark Hernandez, is set to be charged with misbehaviour in public office in relation to an investigation into the treatment of the suspects in the abduction and murder of Andrea Bharatt.
During a hearing of a habeas corpus application brought by Hernandez a short while ago, officers of the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) indicated that they had received instructions to lay the charge from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
As attorney Yohann Niles, of the T&T Police Service (TTPS)’s Legal Unit, indicated that investigators only needed a short time to complete the paperwork needed to officially charge Hernandez, High Court Judge Betsy Ann Lambert Peterson gave until 4:15 pm to complete the process or release him.
She also ordered the State to pay a half of Hernandez’s legal costs for bringing the legal action, as she ruled that the action was reasonable in the circumstances of his protracted detention, since last Wednesday.
The development in the case comes hours after High Court Judge Jacqueline Wilson ordered the release of WPC Laura Gadar, who was detained alongside Hernandez and filed a similar lawsuit.
Hernandez and Gadar were the only two of the approximately two dozen members of the unit who were questioned in relation to the probe, who had remained detained by investigators since last week.
Both participated in identification parades on Saturday.
Joel Balcon and Andrew Morris were prime suspects in the abduction of Bharratt, a clerk at the Arima Magistrate’s Court, who went missing on January 29th.
Within hours of Bharratt’s disappearance, both Morris and Balcon were detained by a team of SORT and Anti-Kidnapping Unit (AKU) officers.
Morris died at hospital on February 1st, while Balcon succumbed to injuries, he allegedly sustained in police custody, almost a week later.
Bharratt’s bloated and decomposing body was found, days before Balcon’s death (February 4), dumped over a precipice in Heights of Aripo.
Negus George eventually was charged with Bharratt’s murder. Another suspect allegedly was beaten by police but survived and was released without being charged.
Hernandez has been short-listed for one of three Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) posts. His nomination by the Police Service Commission (PSC) is yet to be debated and approved by Parliament.
In anticipation of the hearings of Hernandez and Gadar’s cases, messages of solidarity were being shared on social media, this morning.
Hernandez was represented by Wayne Sturge, Lemuel Murphy, Mario Merritt, and Alexia Romero.
Gadar was represented by Gerald Ramdeen, Dayadai Harripaul, Darren Mitchell, and Umesh Maharaj.