A High Court judge has ordered the State to compensate the estate of a dead man who was arrested and charged with being a gang member during the failed state of emergency in 2011.
On Wednesday, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh ordered the State to compensate the estate of Newton Pollard a total of $200,000.
Pollard was arrested on August 23, 2011, at an apartment on George Street, Port of Spain, and charged two days later. He was remanded for 19 days before the Director of Public Prosecutions, Roger Gaspard,SC, appeared in court and said he was of the “unflinching view” that there was no sufficient evidential basis for Pollard’s prosecution. He was 60 years-old at the time of his arrest.
The case was dismissed. He filed a lawsuit against the State seeking compensation for malicious prosecution but died on April 19, 2013. His cousin was appointed administrator of his estate and allowed to continue the claim, which according to the judge, proceeded without issue.
His lawyers, Lemuel Murphy and Joseph Sookoo, argued malice on the part of the police since they ought to have known there was no evidence against him and provided none to prove he was involved with the Nelson Street gang as alleged.
In its defence, the State argued that the police acted with good faith and had reasonable and probable cause to arrest Pollard as there were officers working in the Besson Street district for 18 months before, and had CCTV footage of members of the Nelson Street gang who had firearms and were robbing motorists.
The police formed the view that Pollard was affiliated with known persons in the Nelson Street area involved in criminal activities.
Retired police officer Emrol Bruce, Pollard’s cousin, testified at the trial that he never knew his cousin to be involved in any kind of criminal activity. He insisted that Pollard was not a member of a gang.
“Mr Pollard is not here to say he was not a member of a gang, but Mr Bruce, who was a police officer, and his cousin and he knew him well. We also have evidence that Mr Pollard had gotten to the age of 60 years and still had his good character intact, “ Boodoosingh said.
He also pointed out that the DPP had expressed a strong position of the lack of sufficient evidence.
“The police cannot simply round up persons who may be in the vicinity of where gang members gather and assume they are involved in gang activity. Ordinary law abiding citizens often live in the same locations where persons engaged in criminal activities live.
"A broad-brush approach is not consistent with policing anywhere especially in a democratic State where the Constitution and laws provide for the observance of civil rights and freedoms. Policing and evidence must be intelligence driven and scientifically driven, where appropriate,” Boodoosingh said.
The State was represented by Sasha Sukhram.