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Thursday 23 May 2019
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State to pay $.2m to man charged as gang member

The State has been ordered to pay yet another person wrongly charged with being a member of a gang under the now lapsed Anti-Gang Act during the 2011 State of Emergency.

Yesterday Justice Devindra Rampersad, in the San Fernando High Court, ordered that Mark Huggins, 42, of Vistabella, San Fernando, be paid $225,000 plus legal costs. He was arrested on August 26 of that year. While he was standing in the gallery of his home, police in vehicles arrived and took Huggins to the Mon Repos Police Station, then to San Fernando. He was charged with being a gang member and remained in custody until September 29, when he was taken before a magistrate. The case was dismissed that day after Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard told the magistrate the prosecution did not have sufficient evidence. Attorney Kevin Ratiram filed a malicious-prosecution lawsuit on Huggins’ behalf against the State for his wrongful detention in prison for 36 days and three-and-a-half hours.

The State challenged the lawsuit. However, in an eight-page judgment yesterday, Rampersad found that the police’s evidence, in which they sought to justify the arrest, was unreliable. Huggins testified and denied he was ever involved in selling drugs or robbery. In analysing the evidence, the judge said the police’s lack of information about Huggins’ involvement in gang activity reeked of an attempt to fabricate a charge against him.

“Without credible reason whatsoever, there was absolutely no attempt by any other officer to obtain a search warrant for the claimant’s (Huggins’) apartment,” Rampersad said.

“In cross-examination, PC Khadoo confirmed that he did not recall any of the police party searching the claimant’s premises for drug or robbery items. He could not ascertain whether drug or robbery items would be found on the claimant. He could not recall even asking any of the officers if they had found anything and he did not even think that it was an important inquiry to make.”

The judge ruled that Huggins is entitled to an award of $225,000 plus aggravated damages for what he described as a clear attempt to fabricate evidence against him. He was awarded $30,000 in exemplary damages. Rampersad ordered the State to pay Huggins’ legal costs of $48,162.66, plus $1,000 as special damages.

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