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State to pay businessman $300,000 for SoE detention
The State has been ordered to pay a little over $300,000 in compensation to a businessman from Couva who was briefly charged with being a gang member during the 2011 State of Emergency (SoE).
Delivering a 40-page judgment in the San Fernando High Court on Tuesday, Justice Ricky Rahim ruled that police officers had maliciously prosecuted Darryl Bishop as they did not have reasonable or probable cause to suspect that he was guilty of the crime when they arrested him in August 2011.
While Rahim said that malice could only be inferred by a court in rare circumstances, he said Bishop’s case fell within that category based on the lack of evidence against Bishop.
He said: “Therefore, if the claimant is right that Cpl McDonald had no evidence to charge him then it cannot be said that Cpl McDonald had an honest belief that the claimant was guilty of the offence of being a member of a gang and so malice may be inferred since it can be said that the prosecution against the claimant was initiated for some other motive than to secure the ends of justice.”
In assessing the $250,000 in general damages for Bishop, Rahim considered the humiliation, damage to his reputation and deprivation of his liberty caused by his arrest.
He also awarded $50,000 in exemplary damages to serve as a deterrent against serious abuse of authority by the police.
“The arbitrary exercise of power by the State in this case was overwhelming and the court should send a strong message it should not and will not be tolerated in a free and democratic society with respect for the rule of law,” Rahim said.
He also awarded $10,000 in special damages, which represents the money Bishop paid for a lawyer to represent him before the charge was withdrawn by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Bishop was also seeking compensation for losses his two bars and fishing company suffered in his 45 day absence. However, Rahim said that he was not entitled as he failed to produce financial records proving his claims.
According to the evidence in the case, Bishop was arrested as police raided his bar at Greg Street, Balmain, Couva, to allegedly search for drugs, firearms and ammunition. While no illegal items were found, Bishop was arrested and a large quantity of cash in his house and bar was seized.
In his evidence, Bishop claimed that he knew the arresting officer (Cpl McDonald), as he had charged him with cocaine trafficking several years before. Bishop was found not guilty of that charge due to insufficient evidence.
State attorneys did not call McDonald as a witness in the civil claim before Rahim, instead opting to use the testimony of two police officers, who allegedly performed surveillance on Bishop but found no evidence linking him to an crimes.
The judgment comes less than a month after the State expended a little over $700,000 to settle false imprisonment claims with 15 men, who were also charged for being gang members during the SoE before being freed. Bishop was represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC.
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