POLICE are not enforcers of bailiffs or agents, a High Court judge has advised.
The advice of Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh came as he delivered judgment for a Biche man who was evicted from his home, in 2013, by police officers who claimed to have “better papers from the Red House.”
“This case illustrates what can happen when the police get themselves involved in the private business of citizens without court orders,” Boodoosingh said in his decision.
He ordered the State and two of the police officers named in the lawsuit to pay Rishiram Christopher damages in the sum of $77,200 as well as his costs.
The judge said, “The police took on a partisan role and did not show the restraint and independence required of their office.”
Christopher filed the lawsuit after he was evicted by the police from the wooden house owned by his sister and her husband on January 15, 2013.
According to testimony at the trial, Christopher said the police – PC Bennett, PCs Stewart and Rodney Charles – first came and demanded he leave the property on January 12, 2013.
The officers claimed they had an eviction notice and even threatened to charge Christopher for marijuana possession.
Three days later, he and two friends were looking at the nightly news on television when a police van stopped in front his house. The officers had guns and they entered his house and asked, “You still f---ing here?”
He tried showing them the receipts for the property, but one of the police officers said they “had better thing than that, we have papers from the Red House.”
The policemen began throwing Christopher’s belongings in the yard, where it stayed for some days.
They got soaked. The electricity was cut for the property and police emptied his house and broke down a shed he was building. Christopher had photographs taken of the items in the yard, and an adjuster estimate their value. They were worth $37,000. Charles erected four “no trespassing” signs on the property.
“The police ought not to have involved themselves in what was a private dispute as to the occupation of premises. Their role is to keep the peace. In this instance I accepted the evidence of the claimant that the police were actively involved in assisting Mr Charles in his unlawful removal of the claimant. One of them, I accepted, used obscene language. They took on the role of the court in declaring that they had better papers from the Red House!” the judge said.
Bennett said he was hired by Charles to serve the notice of eviction and was shown a “deed of purchase” for property at No 45 at LP#432 Newlands Village, Biche.
Boodoosingh said it was not uncommon for more than one property in rural locations to have the same light pole number. He also said he did not believe the State’s witnesses, which included two police officers.
“This, in my view, was a high-handed and unjustified removal of Mr Christopher from his home. It was abuse of power of the worst kind. The police acted as associates of a bailiff / agent who had no authority from the court to act. Conduct by police officers like this erodes public confidence and trust.
“They make citizens wary, suspicious and resentful of the police. It brings down the good work of those police officers who are faithfully carrying out their duties,” he said.
Christopher was represented by attorney Dale Scobie while Maria Belmar-Williams, Shalini Singh and Kendra Mark represented the Attorney General and the police officers.
Newsday contacted UNC MP for Naparima Rodney Charles who confirmed that he was not the same person referred to in this court matter.