Decision day in battery case against Wehner and Lewis

George Wehner

Today, George Wehner and Swanston Lewis will know whether the prosecution has proven a case that they beat a police officer, Constable Marvin Cuffy, an offence he accused them of committing in September 2016.

All Saints Magistrate, Ngaio Emanuel, is scheduled to deliver her decision today after presiding over the case that lasted more than a year.

The duo was charged in December 2016, three months after the alleged incident at Sea Breeze Reception Hall in Pares Village. The confrontation which became the subject of the court matter, occurred during a meeting of the self-described “good governance” group, The Movement.

The prosecution called upon five witnesses to support its case about what happened on the night of September 9, 2016.

Cuffy testified, saying he was at the meeting when its president, Algernon “Serpent” Watts, announced that he had something important to tell the group and did not want it recorded. After that, all parties were asked to turn off their electronic and recording devices.

Cuffy, who was dressed in civilian clothing and who was in the gathering, was told to turn off his phone but refused and was asked to leave immediately. This he also refused to do.

The officer said Wehner grabbed his hand and pulled him from his seat, while another person also grabbed him, but he did not see that person. Cuffy also said that he did not know the other defendant, Lewis.

Sergeant David Cockburn, who also testified, said he witnessed the incident but did not see the defendants touch Cuffy. Another officer, Sinclair Walter, who was also in attendance, said he left at the point when Watts asked everyone to turn off their devices and to ensure the person sitting next to them had done so as well.

For their defence, Swanston and Wehner called two witnesses: retired police Inspector Edread Pemberton and truck driver Franklyn Smith.

Pemberton said The Movement’s meetings are very private though the public is invited with the aim of attracting new members.

He said the group rents the Hall for its meetings and during that period, it has full control of the premises as per the agreement. He testified that on previous occasions, people were asked to leave the meeting and did so.  

Smith on the other hand said he was at the meeting, seated next to Cuffy when the incident occurred. He said he saw when Wehner approached Cuffy and told him to turn off his phone and when he refused he was again asked to turn it off or leave.

The witness said Wehner held Cuffy’s hand and Cuffy rose to his feet and he also said that the defendant Lewis did not do anything to Cuffy.

Smith said no one hit the junior officer who was there in his private capacity. In addition to being a member of The Movement, Wehner is a budding politician on the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) ticket and a retired captain of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force.