A Point Fortin restaurant worker who is before the magistrates’ court on a charge of beating a 10-year-old girl will receive vindicatory damages from the State for breach of his constitutional right to bail.
The compensation ordered for Peter Bharat by Justice James Aboud will be assessed by a Master of the High Court.
Aboud, in making the order, has also granted Bharat two declarations that the decision by the State to refuse him access to bail when he presented valid security. The declarations were that the decisions were illegal and amounted to an unlawful exercise of power and that Bharat’s detention, although he had been granted bail and produced the relevant documents, was in breach of his rights.
In February, Bharat was charged for allegedly beating a 10-year-old girl and was granted $75,000 bail with surety by a Point Fortin magistrate.
When his mother produced a certified draft cheque for $75,000, the magistracy registrar refused to accept it and asked for a source of funds document to be attached.
Bharat’s attorneys Gerald Ramdeen, Dayadai Harripaul and Umesh Maharaj filed a claim in the High Court complaining of the decision of registrar of the Point Fortin Magisterial District refusal to approve Bharat’s bail.
The application said the source of funds document was presented, but the registrar then asked for a deed in excess of $75,000. Bharat’s attorneys argued that the decision of the registrar was contrary to law and not in accordance with provisions of section 4 of the Bail Act and sections of the Criminal Division and District Criminal and Traffic Courts Act.
They also said the decision to deny bail, although Bharat satisfied the bail conditions, amounted to a flagrant abuse of power.
According to the application, the Bail (Access to Bail) (Amendment) Act provided for various means by which bail could be secured, including the presentation of certified cheque in the sum of the quantum of bail granted.
Bharat was eventually released from prison the day after he filed his claim when Justice Frank Seepersad issued an order to the prison commissioner to release him from custody once he presented a certified cheque for the bail amount to the High Court registrar, the bail bonds and the documents required under the Act.
The civil claim was then transferred to Justice Aboud. In response to the claim, the magistracy registrar admitted it was “only in hindsight” that he became aware of the Bail (Access to bail) Amendment Act of 2017 which was proclaimed on February 1, 2019.
He said after conversations with the former clerks of the peace at the court, and from his own understand and experience at the time, bail with surety meant that the bailor had to produce a deed for land, whereas cash bail could be accessed by the bailor producing a certified cheque and a bank statement showing that the cheque was drawn from that account.
However, despite his admission that he was unaware of the amendment to the Bail Act, he said he did not agree that Bharat was entitled to any of the reliefs sought.