A former police officer who was jailed for 17 years for raping a teenager who went to a police station to make a report some 18 years ago, has lost his appeal of his conviction.
Justices Prakash Moosai, Mark Mohammed and Judith Jones unanimously dismissed Harry Ramlochan’s appeal, however the judges did not agree on two grounds raised by his attorneys.
However, their disagreement did not change the eventual outcome of the appeal as the two judges who did not agree on certain issues held that a jury inevitably would have returned the same guilty verdict on the evidence and there was “no substantial miscarriage of justice” in Ramlochan’s case.
Ramlochan appealed his June 2017 conviction for raping the then 17-year-old girl inside the San Fernando Police Station where she and her mother went to report a domestic dispute on May 5, 2001.
Before he left the court, Ramlochan spent a few minutes speaking to the handful of relatives who were there, telling them, “Be strong. I will see what I can do.”
His appeal was argued by attorneys Rajiv Persad and Christophe Rodriguez. Ramlochan faulted the trial judge’s handling of the case, in particular her directions to the jury as well as the admittance of prejudicial evidence.
According to the victim’s testimony at the trial, on Saturday May 5, 2001 she went with her mother to the San Fernando Police Station to make a report that her mother had been beaten by a relative.
Ramlochan took the mother inside to make the report and then said he wanted to take a statement from her daughter. Her mother advised her to go with him.
The said that Ramlochan took her to a dormitory where he asked her if she had ever had sex. She told him she was waiting until marriage.
She said Ramlochan then tried to hug and kiss her and left the station. On his return he offered her a drink of rum but she also refused. She also refused the money Ramlochan offered her when he took her to the Court and Process Office.
He became upset and closed the door and pushed her against a cabinet and forcefully kissed her and bit her lips. He then pushed her against a wall and pulled down her pants and underwear. He pushed her on a sponge on the ground where he raped her. She was able to identify the sponge, which contained spermatozoa, and it was this evidence that was labelled as prejudicial by Ramlochan’s attorneys at the appeal.
In his defence, Ramlochan denied raping the then 17-year-old.
In his decision, Mohammed found merit in the argument that the judge should not have admitted the evidence relating to the sponge and misdirected the jury on how they should approach it, since there was no forensic evidence linking Ramlochan to the spermatozoa.
“It is in my view that this evidence ought not to have been admitted,” Mohammed said.
In their majority finding, Moosai and Jones said the admissibility of the evidence of spermatozoa on the sponge provided corroborating evidence in support of the defence that he did not have sex with her, or raped her. They said it was for the prosecution to prove rape and the failure to forensically link the sperm on the sponge to Ramlochan strengthened his case.
They found no fault with the judge admitting the evidence of the certificate of analysis but did find she erred by not providing a clearly direction to the jury for them to fully appreciate the effect of the missing forensic link.
‘The error lay, therefore, not in its admission, but in its deployment,” Moosai and Jones said.
All three judges found no merit in Ramlochan’s complaint of the disproportionate weighing of the evidence of two doctors who testified at the trial.
In agreeing to dismiss the appeal, the judges applied the proviso allowed under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act which gives the court permission to throw out the appeal even if it is of the opinion that a point raised might be decided in favour of an appellant.
In countering the appeal, special prosecutor Travers Sinanan and Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Angelica Teelucksingh-Ramoutar argued that the evidence relating to the spermatozoa was not linked to Ramlochan so no prejudice was suffered by him.
“The fact that evidence is inadmissible does not make it prejudicial,” Sinanan contended.
Sinanan had argued that the judge was careful in her directions to the jury and gave strong warnings on how they should treat with the evidence and urged them to exercise caution when assessing the evidence.
In countering the appeal, he said Ramlochan suffered no prejudice or a miscarriage of justice.