Officer says he held money

Richard Martin Hanna told the court this week that he was holding money that belonged to North Side Primary School for library books and another trip for students.

He faces 14 counts of theft relating to money he received as donations while serving as the police community officer in North Side January – June 2006.

He began giving evidence on Monday. He said that around February 2006 he became aware of North Side students doing a walkathon. His understanding was that it was to put books in the library.

He became involved in arrangements for the walkathon and also collected donations from people in the community. The donations totalled US$670 and CI$3,007.54. He spent $300 for T-shirts for the students and $30 on candy for them. He still had $3,228.94.

He did not turn the money in at the time of the walkathon on 11 March because, he said, he told the acting principal that he had about $2,500 and was waiting for more money to arrive.

After the walkathon, he was in her office and she gave him a catalogue of playground equipment. He was very upset; he had told people the money was for books. He started trying to find a way to buy books.

He said a friend of his who worked at Barnes and Noble donated two boxes of books and he took these to the principal and told her to go on-line and order as many books as possible. He also spoke to another teacher. He did not order any books himself; he was waiting for them to give him a list.

He was shown a letter dated 14 February and signed by the president of the PTA. It said the money pledged for the walkathon would help purchase playground equipment and refurbish the school library.

Hanna said he never saw the letter.

Reminded of evidence that he had received two sponsorship forms for the walkathon, Hanna explained that he gave one to Miss Cayman, who had agreed to participate, and one to a radio talk show host. He said the sponsorship forms gave legitimacy to kids going around asking for money, but he did not feel he needed validity.

The Year 6 students’ trip to Toronto in June 2006 was a separate activity. Hanna said people in the community donated money to him as he explained he was taking the kids on the trip. He did not feel the money belonged to the PTA. The only involvement of the PTA was to advance funds for air fares, give the kids a place to hold funds and issue drafts.

He said he felt the money belonged to kids for the following year because the purpose for the donation was for the kids. Everybody had said the trip was fantastic and needed to be done again. The money that was left over would be used the following year.

He did not consider paying the money to the PTA because he did not consider it was owed to it. He had heard it was having trouble with keeping track of other expenses.

He was transferred to shift work in July and then back to George Town in August. He understood there were various complaints about him in the community. He held a back-to-school barbecue for the North Side kids in September just to encourage them to do well.

The following Monday he was called into Superintendent Jones’ office and told not to have any further contact with the community, specifically the school. That meant he couldn’t go to the school to get a list of books.

He knew Chief Inspector Harlan Powery was investigating complaints about him. As time went on Mr. Powery became aggressive and sarcastic toward him.

He said he had made photocopies of everything given to him and had money set aside to cover the amount. He had tried to show copies of receipts and papers to Mr. Powery but the officer said they would deal with that later. Hanna’s papers were damaged by rain when he moved them on the back of an open truck.

This evidence was given in response to questions from his attorney, Ms Ailsa Williamson.

In cross-examination, Crown Counsel Nicola Moore asked where the money came from that Hanna turned over to police in July 2007. He said he had money in Canada he had sent down, money his parents were holding for him.

He said he did not remember if he ever told any of the donors he had not spent the money yet.

Ms Moore also asked him about a letter he had sent to Ms Wendy George, administrator of the IAMCO charitable organisation. It was a request for a donation for the class trip to Toronto. It said the class had raised CI$6,448.78 and there was a shortfall of CI$8,551.22.

Ms Moore pointed out that the letter did not say Hanna had $4,937 in donations. She asked him why.

Hanna said he had wanted to amend the students’ itinerary and give them more activities, such as a baseball game, opera and Chucky Cheese. He agreed that, in hindsight, he should have put that in the letter.

He said the students ended up not doing the extra activities because they were too tired at the end of the day.

Asked about the police investigation, Hanna denied being obstructive. He said he stopped being helpful when he retained an attorney – not Ms Williamson – whose advice was not to hand anything over.

Three parents who went on the Toronto trip gave evidence for the Defence and Ms Williamson read statements from a further three witnesses. They praised Hanna’s work as a community police officer.

One parent said the trip was wonderful. Another called it exciting, informative and educational. The third said the trip was well organised and PC Hanna was like a team leader. He even took the kids to the pool to give the parents a rest.

Ms Moore summed up the case for the Crown on Wednesday afternoon and Ms Williamson was scheduled to sum up for the Defence on Thursday morning. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie told the jurors he would then begin his instructions to them.