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Judge: Guilty police officers should pay lawsuits – Trinidad

A High Court judge has again made a call for police officers to pay when money is awarded for lawsuits involving them for malicious prosecution.

Justice Frank Seepersad said the issue has been raised by him and other courts in the past but he again called for the State to intervene and hold officers wholly or partially responsible. He said it requires legislative intervention as taxpayers should not have the burden of paying for such awards.

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Seepersad said the absence of accountability operates as a plague in society.

The judge made the comment on Monday at the end of the trial involving the 2011 matter of Franklyn Ali, who was arrested during the state of emergency.

Seepersad said a decade later and the court is still dealing with claims from that time. He said there must be the requisite training and the officers must be aware that even during a state of emergency the rule of law does not go by the wayside. He said that there must still be evidence to support the elements for the offence.

The judge added that Ali’s matter should not have gone to trial but there seems to be an unwillingness by the State to settle matters. He said this may be done to defer payments but, in doing so, the court’s time is wasted as trial time is misused.

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Ali, of Poole Village, Biche, had claimed that around 12.30 p.m. on September 17, 2011, he was riding his bicycle along Plum Mitan Road from the garden shop when Constable Vialva, who was with other officers, told him to stop and come with him.

Ali said the officer rolled his bike under Samdeo Boodoo’s house near Plum Mitan Junction. He said he was handcuffed and made to sit on the lone staircase, next to Boodoo. Ali said he was not told the reason for his arrest.

He claimed that while there he saw the officer tying a bucket on to a rope and it was pulled through the backdoor. Ali said he and Boodoo were then escorted into the house and the bucket opened.

They were later charged with possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

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At his court appearance before the Magistrates’ Court, he was denied bail and was eventually granted bail months later. He attended his court hearings for five years before the matter was dismissed.

Maliciously prosecuted

Ali claimed he was maliciously prosecuted and sought damages for this, as well as aggravated and exemplary damages and interest.

Under cross-examination by State attorney Trisha Ramlogan, he also said he only knew Boodoo by seeing him and they were not friends.

Officers Ryan Payne and Nicholas Vialva, who gave statements in relation to the matter, said they entered the house based on the regulations under the then state of emergency and that the marijuana was found in a black plastic bag after the cover of the bucket was opened.

They were cross-examined by attorney Lemuel Murphy during the trial.

It was denied that Ali was not at the house when they arrived and that the bucket was pulled upstairs.

Murphy said the officers had concocted the case and that they knew Ali had no knowledge or control of the drugs. However, this was denied by the police.

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Seepersad said that the court was not convinced about the case being concocted or that he had knowledge or control of the marijuana.

He said there was no evidence that Ali was an occupant or member of the house and added that he was unable to conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that guilt of the accused could have been formed where there was the absence of any evidence, whether by way of actual physical involvement with the exhibit or by way of oral admission or confession as to his knowledge in relation to the exhibit. He said that malice could be inferred.

Ali was awarded $150,000 for general damages, inclusive of an uplift for aggravated damages. Interest is to accrue. Cost is also to be paid.

The court found that he did not present the necessary information to show his financial losses or legal fees and was therefore awarded $3,500 for his losses.

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Murphy was instructed by attorney Abigail Roach in the matter. Attorney Domonique Bernard appeared alongside Ramlogan in the case.

Judge: Errant police officers should pay  Trinidad & Tobago Express Newspapers

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