Public Services Association (PSA) president and leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) Watson Duke was fined $1,200 on Thursday for an incident involving a fire alarm at the Arima Borough Corporation in 2017.
Magistrate Avion Gill gave Duke a month to pay the fine – the maximum penalty under the Fire Services Act – but did not impose the three-month prison term because of his previous good character.
Last month, Duke was found guilty of making or causing a false report to be made to fire officials at Arima Fire Station by deliberately setting off a fire alarm at the corporation during a protest in 2017.
Setting off such an alarm while there is no fire and causing fire officers to respond constitutes an offence.
He was sentenced during a virtual hearing on Thursday. Gill said the offence was a serious one which affected the resources of the State.
Last week, Duke’s attorney Travers Sinanan made a plea in mitigation and on Thursday said he was given instructions to appeal the court’s decision. He asked for the court’s reasons to be expedited.
Appearing on behalf of the State was attorney Veona Neal Munroe.
Duke was charged by PC Anil Bhim of the Emergency Response Patrol (ERP).
According to the charge, on September 19, 2017, at the corporation’s building at Hollis Avenue, Duke was engaged in protest action and demanded that employees vacate the premises.
Security officers warned him, but Duke tripped the alarm, and fire officers responded.
On November 6, 2017, police officers received advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to charge Duke.
In a live Facebook video hours before the sentencing, Duke maintained he was innocent.
“I did not pull that fire alarm. I was set up,” he said, adding that he will take his case to the Privy Council if he has to.
“I am prepared for anything…I will not beg or retreat.”
He claimed to have been posing by the fire alarm for media photographers and insisted he did not pull it.
Duke claimed it was a conspiracy and he was set up by “some politicians.”
At a later media conference, Duke said of the fine, "It is a dark day for justice. When an innocent man does no wrong, who cannot be convicted based on the facts put before the court, could be deemed guilty and forced to pay a $1,200 fine, it is a dark day for justice."