Loan, not bribe, says cop

| 13/05/2014

(CNS): A police officer accused of taking a bribe in order not to arrest a man over the theft of a mobile phone said that the money he got was a legitimate $500 loan and there was “nothing untoward” in the arrangement. Taking the witness stand in his own defence when his case restarted on Monday after a two week break, Elvis Ebanks (30) said he had not done anything wrong but on reflection he had been foolish to accept the loan offered by Len Ferrares. Ebanks denied taking $150 from him the day he attended the report at Autospa over the possible theft. He denied threatening the man and Ebanks insisted he told him very clearly that he would not be prosecuted. After Ferrares had offered him a loan three times during the journey he eventually accepted, he said.

Ebanks, who has been a police constable for eleven years, having joined the service just a year after leaving school, told the jury when he took the stand Monday that he had dealt with the issue at the Autospa on 10 November 2012 and had confirmed that the owner of the phone did not want to press charges once his phone was returned. He had then agreed to take Ferrares, the man who had been accused of stealing it, home. This was because there was going to be no further action and because the owner of the car wash had wanted the man removed from the premises after the theft allegation.

Ebanks said he left the spa and stopped for a cigarette on Old Prospect Road before he drove Ferrares to his home in Spotts, Newlands. The police officer told the court that he had told Ferrares immediately that there would be no arrest and that the owner did not want to press on with the case.

He warned him, however, that he should not keep things he found and he gave an example of finding a wallet with money inside but with forms of identification. He said he had told Ferrares that he could do with $500 but if he found that money it would be stealing if he kept the case as there would be ways of contacting the owner.

After this example, Ferrares immediately offered to lend him $500, he said, but the police officer had declined, explaining he was just giving an example. But he said Ferrares insisted and on the third time he made the offer, Ebanks said he decided to accept. He said they had agreed Ferrares would lend him $500 and he would pay him back $600 over two installments and they arranged to meet on the following Wednesday. Ebanks said the case regarding the phone was closed so there was nothing wrong with the arrangement, which he said was a perfectly legitimate loan and had nothing to do with charges regarding the potential cell phone theft, as he had told Ferrares clearly that the case was finished with.

Expressing some regret, he said that on reflection, while he had done nothing wrong, it was a “poor decision” that had landed him in a “bad spot”, where his career now hung in the balance.

After telling his side of the story, Ebanks was pressed by the crown about the phone calls recorded by the police in a sting operation in which Ferrares appeared scared and had asked Ebanks to confirm that once he gave the money everything would be OK and he wouldn’t be arrested.

Ebanks said he was completely puzzled and confused by the reaction of Ferrares in the phone calls as he said it had nothing to do with what they had agreed. He told the court that when he collected the loan money from him at the Countryside Shopping Centre, Ferrares had simply given him the money and quickly disappeared, making no conversation and not explaining why he appeared so concerned.

He denied over and over that he had asked Ferrares for money and had used the threat of arrest over the phone theft to extract the bribe and insisted it was a loan. He said he could not explain why the things that Ferrares said did not coincide with what the men had agreed before but he was never able to find out. He said he did not ask him what he meant on the phone as he wanted to speak with him face to face, which was why he urged him to meet at the agreed place by Subway at Countryside.

Ebanks also said he could not explain what had happened to the bits of paper on which he had written the details of the incident at Autospa as he said they were slipped inside his police notebook when the officers who had arrested him had taken possession of that book.

The officer, who is currently suspended from duty because of the charges, also accused the officers who arrested him of being very aggressive, even though he was not fighting or threatening anyone.

Ebanks said he did not know any of these UK officers, who, he said, didn’t say they were police. He also described the so-called “deflection strike” that one officer said he used to bring Ebanks to the floor was nothing more than a term used by police as an excuse or a cover-up for when they have assaulted someone in the course of their work.

The trial, which is being heard by a jury and presided over by Grand Court Judge Justice Charles Quin, continues Tuesday in court one.

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