A JUDGE has described the case of two teenagers who sued a mall owner for breach of privacy, false imprisonment and assault as an episode from the popular daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless.
The teens sued after the video recording of them in a bathroom cubicle was posted online and even featured in the CNC3 television news.
The incident took place on October 2, 2018, in south Trinidad.
The judge granted an anonymity order which prevents the publication of the teenagers' names.
Justice Frank Seepersad called on parents to hold their children responsible for their actions and ordered the mothers to pay the mall owner’s costs for defending the lawsuit which, he said, should not have been filed.
Instead, Seepersad said the case demonstrated a complete abdication of parental responsibility by the mothers. They should have called on the teenagers to explain why they were in a public bathroom at 7 am in their school uniforms “doing adult things.”
“We all love our children and sometimes accept their version of things. Proper parenting requires us to hold them responsible…Part of the problem we face with the truancy of youth is the failure by parents to hold their own children accountable and say, ‘No, not my child. My child is a good child,” …crying over coffins saying they were a good boy.”
He told the teenagers, “You cannot play mas and fraid powder. You cannot do big-people things and then get offended when information gets out there. We must all live with the consequences of our actions.”
In evidence given earlier from their attorney’s office, the boy, now 19, said he and the girl, who is now 17, arranged to meet before school at a seamstress's premises which was close to their school, since he had to get a school shirt altered.
He said the girl was ill and he accompanied her to the bathroom when the businessman came in cursing him and judging them.
The girl said she was on her period and was feeling nauseous. She said they were doing nothing wrong in the bathroom but felt ashamed when confronted by the businessman and the husband of another mall tenant, because the students of the school they attended were known for being mischievous and for making false accusations.
She said the businessman ordered a picture to be taken of them, and they were scared. She admitted she should not have felt ashamed, but thought of how the other students of the school would react to them being caught together in the bathroom. She said they were not a couple,
Two days later, they both saw the video of them on social media and on the news. She said it left her humiliated and embarrassed, since she was easily recognised in the video, which she said was still on social media.
It continued to affect her life as a female, she said, as strangers often ask her if she was the girl “taking man in the toilet.” Since then she has chosen to wear her hair long to avoid being recognised as the girl in the video.
Also testifying were the businessman, his daughter and the seamstress.
A separate lawsuit against the other tenant’s husband resulted in a default decision in the teenagers’ favour after he failed to defend it.
In his oral decision, Seepersad said he did not believe the explanation the teens had given, and held they lacked credibility. From the evidence, he said the two were “engaged in a romantic tryst in a public bathroom.”
Referring to a statement made by the teenage boy, when confronted by the mall owner, that they were not kissing, Seepersad said it appeared that “mouth open and story jump out,” since they were kissing and the intervention, which he said was fortuitous, prevented them from going further.
He also said they appeared to think they were free to do what they wanted in a public bathroom, but warned that there were offences under the Sexual Offences Act involving people under the age of 16.
Seepersad said the folly of youth could not excuse situations of impropriety.
He also said in TT, there was no right of action premised on the lack of privacy, as he also faulted Parliament for failing to enact legislation to protect citizens’ privacy.
As he referred to the 2015 revenge porn case involving a local cricketer, which he also adjudicated on, Seepersad said since then Parliament has not passed a law to allow for actions founded on the failure to respect the privacy of a person.
“It is a stain on us as a democratic sovereign state and a poor reflection of parliamentary responsibility,” he said.
He also warned that “unless you are in your own home, nothing we do on the outside is in privacy. There are peering eyes everywhere.”
The teenagers were represented by attorney Lee Merry. Dereck Balliram represented the mall owner.