Six-hour hearing for having insulted the police

Nadika Stephen appeared before the Court for having shouted racist insults at the police.

What happened is simple: a woman offended and shouted racist insults at some border police officers (PAF). People regularly appear before the criminal court for this kind of offense. The judges of Saint-Martin have already had to judge people from Saint-Martin and from the mainland for having insulted gendarmes and territorial police officers, people who hold public authority. All of them admit to their outburst. Annoyed during a check, they speak violently and end up before the judge. The examination of their case doesn’t last more than a half an hour. A suspended prison sentence and the obligation to compensate the victims for the moral damage suffered are delivered. A textbook case for law professionals.

But the case of this woman who appeared before the Saint-Martin criminal court on Thursday lasted almost six hours. Nearly 60 people came to the Courthouse to show her support but not all of them could access the hearing room due to a lack of space. This is the first time that a person from Saint-Martin who is tried for this kind of offense received such support.

The journalists were also there, many more than just the usual two or three who normally cover the hearings. This case took on a lot of importance.


However fundamentally, it wasn’t more complicated than the others. It stood out due to the message that the defense - composed of five lawyers from Guadeloupe - tried to deliver to the court. And indirectly to the population. A clear message: the native populations of one country are crushed and governed by "the dominant group" and are therefore progressively losing their identity and becoming a minority.

On Thursday, the defendant was Nadika Stephen, who is very well-known on the island for her commitment to defend the Saint-Martin identity. She belongs to the Soualiga Grassroots Association whose members at the hearing wore white t-shirts on which was written: "I am a Saint-Martiner". Throughout the trial, the defense did its best to make the authorities recognize that Nadika Stephen has the right to assert her Saint-Martin identity as well as justify the need and the necessity to do so.

However, Madam Stephen was not charged for having said to the police "I am a Saint Martiner". But rather “damned White, Peckerwood, dirty bastard, fuck France, I shit every morning on my French passport” [editor’s note: translated from French, as appears in the Police statement] to three police officers. However, she denies this.

Before the court, she recognized her anger on that day, June 16, 2015. Her son had just been placed in custody in the border police station for having insulted another police officer a few hours earlier during an id check. Just for the record, her son refused to give his passport on the grounds that he is from Saint-Martin, he is known on the island, therefore he does not need to justify his identity. The tension rose and he insulted the police officers.

Nadika Stephen heard about her son’s arrest from some people she knew - she explained that she works for the Collectivité and that she has several contacts. A border police officer also called to ask her to bring some food for her son. At the beginning, not knowing the reasons for her son’s arrest, Nadika Stephen quickly got carried away once she arrived in front of the police. Afterwards, she went to the Prefecture to get some information from the Chief of Staff. She then returned to the border police station to bring some food to her son. And that’s when the exchanges became violent once again. However, Nadika Stephen denies having said the insults and indignities mentioned in the charges.

One of her lawyers, Maître Chevry tried to prove it in her plea. The lawyer recapped all the reports of the police officers who were questioned and was in a position to maintain that the insults were uttered by the defendant’s sister who was with her at the border police station that day.

"I was interrogated on what I didn’t say but not on what I said," said Nadika Stephen, at the end of the five defense speeches of the lawyers, when she was asked to take the floor as requested by the law before the end of the trial. And what she said is "I am a Saint-Martiner". To the judges, she repeated what she said during the hearing with the police on the July 27th: “I’m not French because I don’t come from France. I come from Saint-Martin, I am a Saint-Martiner with a French passport”.

In this case, the question was whether Ms Stephen had uttered insults or not. And if so, to assess their racial character. But the six-hour hearing was oriented towards another debate about identity and the respect that the immigrant populations must have towards the local population. The defense called three witnesses to the stand, Daniella Jeffry (the author of several books on the history of Saint-Martin), Julien Merion, (retired) Professor of Political Science at the University of Guadeloupe and Eli Domota, the leader of LKP. Since they didn’t witness the events, they could not confirm or deny the allegations against Nadika Stephen. They were therefore there to demonstrate by explaining history - mainly the history of Guadeloupe - how immigrant populations have managed to dominate the native minority populations of the region.


"An extended hearing", commented the Deputy Prosecutor Yves Paillard as a preamble to his indictment. "They tried to make the defendant look like a victim… isn’t asking someone for their identity the most objective way of knowing who they are? Instead of judging them on their physical appearance, the color of their skin?", he asked. Earlier during the hearing, he had asked Daniella Jeffry this same question. She had just presented the history of Saint-Martin and expressed the feeling of frustration that the local population might feel today, after the arrival of "foreign people", who are responsible for the "disruption of society". She had also recognized the necessity of the border police’s mission and their duty, as it so happens in "the fight against illegal immigration". The Deputy Prosecutor then asked her "how, according to her, does one recognize an illegal person from a legal person". She was unable to give an answer.

Yves Paillard said he understood the defendant’s state of anger and worry at that moment. "As a mother, she was worried for her son, it’s quite normal", he said. Furthermore, he emphasized her courage for defending the Saint-Martin identity. But does not accept that one could insult persons who hold public authority. He therefore requested a three-month suspended prison sentence and a fine for 2000 €, half of which is to be suspended.

The judgment was adjourned until January 19.

To be continued: the defense arguments.


Estelle Gasnet