PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Former junior National Security Minister, Collin Partap, has been slapped with a TT$5,000 (One TT dollar =US$0.16 cents) fine after he was found guilty, on Tuesday, of a charge of failing to submit himself to a breathalyzer test, outside a night club, last year.
Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayres-Caesar, who earlier this month had rejected a no-case submission made by Senior Counsel Israel Khan, ordered that Partap, pay the fine, within one week, or face a nine month jail term.
Partap, the son of the island’s Ambassador to South Africa, Harry Partap, was fired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar a few hours after he was detained by the police on August 26, 2012, for failing to take a breathalyzer test.
Police said, Partap refused and was detained and taken to a police station, and only agreed to take the test, after acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, arrived at the station nearly an hour after the junior minister had been detained. The test was found to be within the legal limit.
On July 9, Magistrate Ayres-Caesar rejected the no-case submission, ruling that the State had made out a prima facie case, and she was satisfied that a conviction might be the result, based on the evidence.
In her ruling Tuesday, the magistrate said, that police officers had cause to suspect that Partap had exceeded the limit, and she was satisfied that the State witnesses were credible, reliable and compelling.
She said, that the insistence by Partap that his attorney to be present before he gave a breath sample, was not a reasonable excuse for causing the delay and that this refusal was equal to failure. She ruled that his failure was without reasonable excuse.
The magistrate said that Partap, an attorney and legislator, had taken an oath to uphold the law adding, “to whom much is given, much is expected”.
She said, that on the night in question, Partap was called upon to display a higher standard than was displayed, according to the State’s evidence.
Earlier this month, Khan, one of seven lawyers representing the former junior minister, submitted that his client should be freed, since the charge he is facing does not exist according to the law, given that the words “for a breath test” was left out. He added, that to date, no amendment has been made.
Khan said, if his client is found guilty, he would want to know the reason for this, adding, that the State would also want reasons if the Chief Magistrate was likely to rule in Partap’s favour.
But Busby said, that Partap, as an attorney and as a minister, knew what he was doing. He added, that there are cases which state that a delay amounts to a refusal in any event, so the charge is a proper one.
He told the court, that the wrong message would be sent to the public if Partap is found not guilty, since Partap “clearly, willfully and obviously” refused to take the test.
“The police could stop anyone, me, you, a minister. You are not allowed to refuse and drive off and go home and kill yourself or someone else,” said Busby.