Today, on 4 May 2018, judge of the Sovetsky District Court of Nizhny Novgorod Ivan Karnavsky announced a verdict of former police officer of Police Department No.7 Pavel Bersenev. He is declared guilty of abuse of office with the use of violence against a detained woman. The court sentenced the convict to four years of conditional term.
As we have previously reported, Elena Petrova from Nizhny Novgorod (the name and surname are changed) applied to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture asking for legal assistance. She reported that she had been violently detained in Nizhny Novgorod karaoke-café and taken to police department No.7 of the Department of the Interior for Nizhny Novgorod. There, according to her words, one of the policemen shouted at her during the conversation, hit her in the face with his hand and pushed her to the wall.
In her explanation to the human rights defenders Elena reported that at night on 2 April 2017 she was having a rest with friends at the karaoke-cafe. At some moment, there began a fight among a young man from her company and some other guests on the dance-floor. Those present there tried to stop the fight and some later the policemen arrived to the cafe.
According to Elena’s words, the policemen came to her purposefully and ordered her to come with them to the police department. She asked the policemen to explain to her the reason of their request, but they used physical strength and put her arms behind her back and handcuffed her. Due to that Elena suffered from severe physical pain (later the surgeon diagnosed “shoulder joints sprain”).
Petrova was taken to Police Department No. 7.
According to Elena, in the department she was given some explanations to sign but they did not let her read them. After the detained person refused to sign the papers several times, the policeman quite abruptly changed the tone of the conversation into very aggressive one and said: “If you do not sign it now, I’ll give you some beating!”
– I said that I was not going to sign anything anyway. Immediately after that the policeman hit my face with the sharp of his hand, – remembers Petrova.
In the end, Elena signed the document without reading it. After that she was released and left the police department at about half past four in the morning. On the same day, she came to the trauma center of city hospital No. 34, and on the next day she went to the surgeon at the place of her residence. As a result, the doctor diagnosed that the victim had: “Soft tissue bruise on the face, and on the right and left forearms. Right and left shoulder joints sprain”.
On 10 April 2017, investigator with the investigating department of the Investigation Office of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation in Nizhny Novgorod region, Major of Justice Izverov initiated a criminal case against the police officer according to p. «а» Part 3 Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the RF (“Abuse of office with the use of violence”).
Preliminary investigation took about two months, and after the Prosecutor’s Office approved the indictment, on 2 June 2017 it was sent to the Sovetsky District Court of Nizhny Novgorod.
During the discussion, State Prosecutor Larisa Pashina considered the defendant’s guilt of the committed crime to be proven and asked the court to sentence Pavel Bersenev to 4 years of conditional term.
Pavel Bersenev did not acknowledge his guilt of the incriminated crime. The defendant explained the incident as a business conflict with his superiors, who threatened to frame him for a long time, as well as by the fact that he himself became a victim of the victim’s actions and was forced to defend himself.
Today, judge of the Sovetsky District Court of Nizhny Novgorod Ivan Karnavsky passed a ruling of former police officer. The court sentenced Pavel Bersenev to four years of conditional term.
“The court established that Pavel Bersenev, being a law enforcement officer, the objective of which is providing the observance of lawfulness and law order, realizing the illegal nature of his actions, foreseeing the consequences menacing to the public and intending for them to happen, threatened the detained woman with violence and applied it against her, i.e. performed actions he never had a right to perform, which clearly go beyond the limits of his authority”, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Vladimir Smirnov, representing the interests of the victim, commented on the court’s ruling.
The story about the police officer finding himself on the dock because he hit the woman who was delivered to the police department, found a wide public resonance. Sometimes people, who are non-indifferent to this story, ask similar questions. That is why Vladimir Smirnov answers the most common questions.
Question No. 1: Why do the court, the investigation and the human rights defenders fail to take into account the actions of the victim, which she performed in the café, and for which she was taken to the police department, in the first place?
Answer: No one should be subjected to brutal and degrading treatment by the police. Regardless of the citizen’s behavior, of the places where he’s used to celebrating the holidays and even of the crimes he is suspected of. Duty police officer is a very difficult job that requires special training. The police officers have often to deal with citizens who behave inadequately, and the police officers should be stress-resistant enough to be fit for the job.
It is worth pointing out that Elena Petrova has not been subjected to any responsibility. The police officers did not consider that her actions amounted to administrative offence. Why? This question should be addressed to the police officers of Police Department No.7 of the Department of the Interior of the Russian Federation for Nizhny Novgorod, in the first place, to Pavel Bersenev himself, who was responsible for work with delivered persons.
Question No.2: How does Pavel Bersenev himself explains his actions? Why does he deny his guilt?
Answer: In the course of court interrogation the defendant explained that he never hit the victim. He considers the video record, which the court examined, to be edited, and he explains the criminal prosecution against himself by the intrigues of his former superiors who wanted to frame him.
It is worth quoting the evidence of Pavel Bersenev which he provided at court on 10 April 2018:
“…Getting back to 2016… I had some disagreements with my superior, namely with the head of the control room. I was told that I should look for a [new] job. I dealt with that and found a place, but for some reason I was given two reprimands retroactively. When she called me to Deputy Head of the Chief Department of Interior for the Nizhny Novgorod region, Tatyana Stanislavovna Kulikova told me in public that if I don’t quit in time I will be framed. That’s it, and that was done. There were some signs back in January, I submitted a statement…”.
“…That is to say, it’s a secret to no one that there were at least 5 video cameras in the control room, as well as taps. I.e. some unknown special service performed covert surveillance. As well as listened to the telephones, scanned telephones…”.
“…On 21 February I have two my numbers scanned: in a subway, five minutes to seven in the morning, the man whom I photographed two days before that, in a subway. I.e. he was following me from work when I went to my mother-in-law. The red haired one, with a big nose. After that he did not wear a cap, he had a gym bag and there were some wires going out of the bag. The other one was diverting my attention… The one with a big face, about fifty years of age, the one who was following me to the Svobody square…”.
Question No.3: Was the issue of mental capacity of the defendant raised in the course of the court hearing?
Answer: No, it was not. Bersenev’s lawyers did not submit a motion to perform such an expert examination. We do not think it’s possible for ourselves to discuss the mental health of the former police officer. We can only point out that in 2014 Pavel Bersenev indeed lived through a family tragedy, and in 2016, as he explains, he started to have conflicts at work. This is indirectly confirmed by an unflattering reference which the superiors of Police Department No.7 provided for him:
“During the service mainly gained bad reputation. He does not fulfill orders and instructions of the superiors in full scope. He does not know normative orders and instructions regulating the activity of the service. General training and educational level of P.V.Bersenev are insufficient.”
We think that in the current situation the superiors of the department should have paid attention to the moral and psychological condition of the officer, and, if necessary, render him some assistance, possibly, transfer him to another position of service, not related with constant stress and communication with citizens. At the Chief Department of the Interior for the Nizhny Novgorod region there is a department responsible for psychological work with officers.
Question No. 4: What’s with the video surveillance cameras records? Don’t the records feature all what happened?
Answer: They do. This record was examined in detailed at court, including by Bersenev. The video record, which is available in the criminal case materials, contains the moment when the left hand hits the victim’s head. At the same time Bersenev makes half a step forward, and the victim abruptly veers away right after the hit.
However, the former police officer said that this video record is edited. He claims that in reality there are several video records of these events, only one of which, according to him, is the true one. At the same time, according to Bersenev, the true video record shows that he does not hit the victim, however, there is no such a video record in the materials of the criminal case. The defendant called the video record, which is present in the case files, “an artificial one” and claimed that it is the result of editing.
The defendant also reported that some time ago he found a flash-drive in the pocket of his jacket, which contained a video record and an explanatory note where a stranger told him that this flash-drive should help him. However, according to the police officer, when he gave the flash-drive to his lawyer, he lost the video tape and replaced it with the “articifical copy”. On this “artificial copy” the moment of the hit is present. Subsequently, Pavel Bersenev replaced this lawyer, considering him to be a stooge.
Question No.5: Was the defendant’s theory that the victim inserted a writing pen into his hand confirmed?
Answer: No, it was not. The expert examination of the video record confirmed that the writing pen was remaining in the hands of the police officers during the whole incident, and he freely transferred it from one hand to another and etc. The victim, in her turn, did not hit him. The expert did not find the evidence of Bersenev taking the pen out of the wound in the video record, as the former police officer described in his evidence.
It is worth pointing out that the criminal case features a medical certificate. It states that Pavel Bersenev indeed applied for medical assistance with regard to the wound on the palm of his right hand. But he did that not right after the incident, but several days after the events happened at the police department. Forensic medical examination was performed with regard to this fact, however, the expert failed to draw any conclusion on the nature of the wound and on the mechanism of its genesis, including the question on the time when it actually occurred.
Question No.6: Was the pre-investigation check performed with relation to the victim base on Bersenev’s report on the pen inserted into his hand?
Answer: After Bersenev informed the investigator about this theory, the check was performed under procedure provided by Articles 144, 145 of the Criminal Procedural Code of Russia. On 10 May 2017 investigator Boris Izverov refused to initiate criminal proceedings based on this fact. After that neither Pavel Bersenev himself nor his lawyers appealed against the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings, essentially, agreeing to it.
In his turn, the defendant provided controversial information himself during the investigation and the court hearing. For example, during the interrogation in the capacity of a suspect he said to the investigator that he told no one about the incident with the pen. In the court, on the other hand, he claimed that he wrote a statement and inserted it inside a magazine, but after that the statement was gone and no one saw it afterwards. The materials of the criminal case do not feature any statement.
All this, in the aggregate with the video record which does not feature any hit with a writing pen, allows drawing a conclusion that the theory of an attack against the police officer with a writing pen is a part of Pavel Bersenev’s defense strategy.
At the same time, we definitely are sure that even if the theory of the defense party about the attack with a writing pen had been confirmed, it would not have influenced the qualification of what Pavel Bersenev committed. Abuse of office with the use of violence is a grave official crime against the state authority and the interests of the state service. Consequently, it involves not only the interests of the individual victim, but the interests of the state with regard to providing adequate operation sequence as a whole.
Based on this, the victim’s personal reference or even whether she committed any crime herself is of absolutely no importance. Torture and any other brutal and degrading treatment and punishment should not be applied against anyone.