FIRST APPEARANCE: Former minister in the Ministry of National Security, Collin Partap, leaves the Port of Spain Magistrates' Court yesterday, after pleading not guilty on a charge of failing to submit himself to a breathalyser test. —Photos: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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Partap pleads not guilty to refusing breath test

Acting CoP, 5 cops to testify

By Rickie Ramdass rickie.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Former minister in the Ministry of National Security, Collin Partap, yesterday pleaded not guilty to a charge of failing to submit himself to a breathalyser test.

Partap, of Mantacool Road, George Village, Tableland, and the MP for Cumuto/Manzanilla was represented by a battery of lawyers led by Senior Counsel Israel Khan when he made his first court appearance before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayres-Caesar, in the Eighth Court, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain shortly after 9 a.m.

Partap was fired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar hours after he was detained by police last August for the alleged offence.

Police prosecutor Supt Kenneth Cordner told the court that the relevant files would be forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard SC in order to have a State attorney appointed in the matter.

He said the State would be calling six police witnesses to testify, including acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams.

Williams was also present in court when the matter was called.

Cordner said the State would be ready to proceed when the matter resumes on March 7.

After close to three and a half months of police investigations into the matter, on December 7 Gaspard advised Williams to charge Partap for the offence which alleges that he refused to submit himself to a breathalyser test after police stopped him outside the Zen nightclub, Keate Street, Port of Spain, on August 26, 2012.

In court, Khan questioned why Partap was singled out as he left the club although many other persons were exiting the club at the time.

"Is it because he was a Government minister?" Khan asked. The attorney also made reference to the recently concluded matter against Science and Technology Minister Dr Rupert Griffith who was charged with using insulting language towards a police officer.

The charge against Griffith was dismissed by Ayers-Caesar on Wednesday after Khan submitted that the charge laid against him did not exist in law.

"Some of those officers need to be disciplined, as in the matter against Minister Griffith in which I was counsel. They can't even lay a charge properly, and I say that only because the commissioner is here," said Khan.

He added that the defence would be looking to see whether it was against Partap's constitutional rights to provide a breath specimen.

Khan said the defence was also requesting entries from the station diary and pocket diaries of the police officers who would be testifying against his client.

"And let the police know that tests can be done to determine how recent or how long ago those entries were made. This matter would be a long battle," he said.

In addition, the defence attorney requested information relating to a conversation Williams had with Partap at the Belmont Police Station, hours after he had been detained.

"The commissioner went to the station to render whatever assistance he could have provided and now it is the commissioner himself who has turned around and laid the charge. All the while I was thinking that he would have been a witness for us," said Khan.

Khan also asked for documented proof that the officers who claimed Partap failed to submit himself to the test outside the club were in fact in possession of the breathalyser apparatus.

Partap was also represented by attorneys Larry Lalla, Jagdeo Singh, Wayne Sturge and Ravi Rajcoomar.

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