A CIVIL wrongful death claim for compensation has been filed by the families of three people who were killed by six police officers in July 2011.
The families of Alana Duncan, Kerron Eccles and Abigail Johnson are seeking close to $5 million in compensation under the Compensation of Injuries Act.
The killings sparked fiery protests and after three months of investigations, six police officers were charged with murder. In 2013, the policemen - Acting Sergeant Khemraj Sahadeo and Constables Renaldo Reviero, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman and Antonio Ramadin - were committed to stand trial for murder. The trial in the High Court is yet to start.
With time running out on them, the families of the three filed a civil wrongful death claim in July 2015, before the matter became statute barred as would be the case after four years had elapsed from the time of the incident.
In arguments before Justice Kevin Ramcharan at the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, lead counsel for the families, Keith Scotland, said this was a classic case for compensation. “It is a sad day when innocent citizens are snuffed out in the manner in which we allege. This remains a stain that this can happen in our country. The family, they cry out for justice,” Scotland submitted.
Ramcharan is expected to deliver his ruling on May 23. Also appearing for Anderson Duncan (Alana’s father); Junior Eccles (Kerron’s brother); and Francis Johnson (Abigail’s uncle) are Joel Roper and Gideon McMaster. The Commissioner of Police and Attorney General are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The lawyers blamed the State for the deaths, arguing the State had a duty to ensure reasonable steps were taken to safeguard the lives of the three. They also contend that actions of the police fell below policing standards and best practice and had emergency personnel responded sooner, the three may have survived.
The lawyers, in their submissions, also referred to evidence of the prosecution’s main witness, Constable Nicole Clement, who was initially also charged with murder but was granted immunity in return for testifying against her colleagues. Lawyers for the families said the state must be held accountable for the deaths since the three were middle-aged and had bright futures ahead.
Scotland argued that the families were entitled to compensation under section 27 of the Supreme Court Act. In response, senior state attorney Neil Byam said there was no evidence advanced by the families to support their claim for compensation for pain and suffering, loss of expectation of life, loss of amenities and “lost years.”
He also urged the judge not to take into account the evidence of WPC Clement or that the police officers were committed to stand trial.
Duncan, 27, of Duncan Village, San Fernando, Eccles, 29, of Moruga Main Road, Moruga, and Johnson, 20, of Burton Trace, Moruga, were shot dead around 9 pm on July 22, 2011.