THE POLICE are being reminded that with the wide powers with which they are entrusted to preserve the peace and protect citizens, there is an onerous responsibility to ensure that those powers are not abused.
The advice was given by High Court judge Justice Ricky Rahim, who on Thursday ordered the State to compensate a soldier who had been wrongly charged with wounding a man in 2008.
“In this case, the claimant would have endured years of waiting with the sword of Damocles over his head at the Magistrates’ Court, and then at the Assize, not knowing when his ordeal would come to an end in circumstances where he should not have been charged at all.
“The TTPS would do well to ensure that abuse of this kind is eradicated from the service,” Rahim said as he ordered that Cliff Lewis receive a total of $193,500, including interest, as well as costs.
In his ruling, Rahim said, “To say that which has happened in this case is unfortunate is an understatement."
He said for the police to exercise their power " in a manner that amounts to abuse with the attendant consequence of tremendous harm to both the citizen and public confidence in the TTPS.”
Lewis, a sergeant in the regiment, turned himself him to police on December 30, 2009, after he learned there was a criminal complaint against him involving allegedly wounding Kelvin Alleyne in Tunapuna on May 16, 2008.
He was taken to court and eventually committed to stand trial in the High Court on February 1, 2012, on an indictment of burglary and wounding with intent. On February 18, 2016, he was acquitted by a jury.
In his malicious prosecution claim, Lewis’s attorney Kevin Rattiram argued that the police investigation was inadequate, as the lead investigator made no enquiries into the report Alleyne gave before charging Lewis.
Rahim said, according to the evidence, the police officer who laid the charges “barely attempted” to investigate the report, and not having done so, relied on the unreliable and potentially manufactured evidence of Alleyne.
The judge said it appeared the failure by the police to properly investigate in particular the identification evidence meant malice could be inferred from the lack of reasonable and probable cause.
He also said he found the actions of the police highly suspicious, especially since Alleyne did not identify Lewis, yet a year later a statement was taken from the alleged victim in which he “readily and comfortably” identified Lewis.
In awarding compensation, Rahim said he was awarding exemplary damages to “send a message that such arbitrary exercise of power by agents of the State will not be tolerated.”
He also noted that Lewis “would have been made to endure the ordeal of a journey through the criminal justice system as an accused person with all the attendant trappings and consequences both to his persona (feelings of indignity, disgrace and humiliation) and to his reputation.”
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