Trinidad and Tobago
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State to compensate Toco man for malicious prosecution

News
Jada Loutoo

A High Court judge has ordered the State to compensate a Toco man for malicious prosecution, while reinforcing the need for police to abide by their standing orders, particularly on retaining pocket diaries or other corroborating contemporaneous documents.

On Friday, Justice Devindra Rampersad ordered compensation for Kennison Samuel of $110,000, plus interest, and prescribed costs amounting to $26,445.30.

In his ruling, Rampersad held that the investigation that led to Samuel’s arrest in September 2014 was “not well handled,” and was one-sided and incomplete.

Samuel was arrested and charged with being involved in a commotion in the village of Rampanalgas, although he said he was at a parlour at the time of the incident. His claim was supported by two witnesses. The judge accepted Samuel’s version.

The police said he was directly involved in pelting stones and pieces of bricks at a group of people who included a prison officer, a coastguardsman, their relatives and their cars.

In its defence, the State insisted the officers had reasonable and probable cause to arrest, detain, charge and prosecute Samuel for malicious damage to property and inflicting grievous bodily harm.

The matter was eventually dismissed at the magistrates' court because witnesses were unwilling to testify.

In his ruling, the judge said the investigating officer needed to consider the history of acrimony between two parties in the Sugar Hill, Rampanalgas, area.

Rampersad said there was no information in any statements taken from witnesses that identified Samuel as having pelted bricks or causing harm to anyone or their vehicle.

In his ruling, the judge was critical of the police for failing to follow the procedure set out in their standing orders.

“Too often, though, officers come before the courts knowing fully well their duties and responsibilities as police officers as the guardians of the law and, whether through recklessness, negligence or by intention, fail to produce corroborating contemporaneous documents such as their pocket diary notes, statements or other such records which they are duty-bound to maintain.

“The excuse is often that the records cannot be found, the pocket diary is lost or disposed of or they were never issued diaries.

“Therefore, the court is deprived of valuable contemporaneous information with respect to what that particular police officer saw or observed while investigating.”

He said this was unacceptable and would affect an officer’s credibility.

“The police service cannot be reinforced in its failure to have proper records and documentation to corroborate its efforts to get the job done in a legitimate manner.

“As it stands, despite the provisions of the standing orders, proper records are not maintained, and the court is left with the self-serving statements of officers who, by their very conduct, often fail to establish adherence to protocol and regulations despite the fact that they are officers of the law.”

He also suggested the police invest in scanners or all-in-one printers so that diaries and other such evidence can be preserved for two years, as prescribed by the standing orders.

“Scanners are now the proverbial dime a dozen and the court is able to take judicial notice of the fact that one can get an all-in-one printer including a scanner for less than $500.

“So many times officers have come before this court and have alleged that they were not provided with a pocket diary – how hard would be to buy one costing less than $50 if one is serious about one’s job?’

Samuel was represented by attorneys Bindra Dolsingh and Shannon Samaroo-Suraj. The State was represented by attorneys Candice Alexander and Anala Mohan.