THERE must be no slum dog approach to implementing any anti-gang law. Even if police have to infiltrate criminal gangs and “join” as members themselves, it will provide solid proof to prosecute.
So said Justice Frank Seepersad on Wednesday after the State agreed to pay yet another man who was arrested during the 2011 State of Emergency (SoE) and subsequently released. Sheik Elahie, 29, of Craignish Village, Princes Town, was locked up and charged with being a gang member, along with approximately 448 people, when former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar declared the SoE in August 2011.
All were released after Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC, determined that the State could not prosecute the matters.
About 11 people have been awarded compensation in the High Court in lawsuits filed for unlawful detention.
Based on a Court of Appeal ruling, Elahie’s attorney Subhas Panday agreed that the malicious prosecution claim will not succeed, but the unlawful detention for 27 days will.
In his lawsuit, Elahie denied he was a member of the Hot Steppers Gang.
He said police arrested him at home and the one who laid the charge failed to attend court hearings before Senior Magistrate Indrani Cedeno.
He said he was kept with “hardcore” prisoners in a section of the maximum security prison nicknamed “Guantanamo.” He slept on concrete in a cell which caused his body to itch and his asthma condition to worsen because of flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches. On Wednesday, state attorney Sasha Sookram, instructed by Coreen Findley, told Seepersad the Attorney General has agreed on liability for Elahie’s claim for unlawful detention.
Seepersad commented that it was clear that the support systems were not in place to implement the then Anti-Gang Act, and now, the taxpayers must foot the bill.
“There can be no slum dog approach to such legislation. Even if it means covert and undercover operations to get the supporting evidence __ even it means police ‘joining’ gangs. There must be proper training to assist police in understanding how the law ought to be engaged.”
The amount to be awarded to Elahie was not disclosed in open court.