Sea Lots businessman Cedric “Burkie” Burke, dubbed a “community leader,” has been given permission to amend his lawsuit against the State, in which he is seeking compensation for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment after he was arrested and charged with being a gang leader during the 2011 state of emergency.
Burke made news again in June when he showed up uninvited at President’s House for the swearing-in of Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald in her short-lived stint as Public Utilities Minister. He sued the State for his arrest and detention.
Burke’s lawsuit and that of his driver Keown “Baine” Bayne came up for hearing before Justice Robin Mohammed in the Port of Spain High Court yesterday. Burke’s attorney Richard Clarke-Wills sought permission from the judge to amend his client’s statement of case, since new information had come to light only last week relating to the arrest of the two men at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, on August 26, 2011.
Clarke-Wills said discussions were being held with the State with a view to the State possibly settling these as well as the 44 other similar cases, but, as of June, there was no word from the Attorney General’s Office on what it intended to do.
Bayne is now also alleging in support of his case that, when arrested, he was told by police they did not want Bayne but wanted him to sell out Burke.
At the end of yesterday’s hearing, Mohammed agreed to give Burke until December 8 to file an amended statement of case. The State is to respond by January 19.
Mohammed encouraged, in the interim, parties to hold discussions taking into account the ruling of the Court of Appeal in July in a similar case, the Attorney General vs Kevin Stewart who was arrested at his Marabella home on August 27, 2011. On September 28 of that year, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard discontinued the charges against Stewart in the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court.
Stewart filed a claim for compensation and his lawsuit was considered a test case for several others relating to the 2011 SOE arrests. Stewart was initially awarded $350,000 by a High Court judge, but the Court of Appeal reduced this to $50,000.
More than 4,000 people were arrested during the SoE. Hundreds of people, including Burke and Bayne, charged under the Anti-Gang Act during that time were discharged on the advice of the DPP owing to lack of evidence.