A HIGH COURT judge has welcomed the move to abolish preliminary inquiries (PIs)
Justice Frank Seepersad on Wednesday lauded the move, saying it would cut down the time people are before the court.
He made the comments while dismissing a malicious prosecution case of a man who, in 2005, was charged with possession of a firearm in Arouca.
Charles Henry was discharged by an Arima magistrate in 2014. He claimed he was innocent and the police fabricated the case against him since he told them the gun belonged to his passenger at the time who threw the gun in a drain when his car was stopped by the police.
The police, however, said the gun was found in the waist of his pants and his car was at the side of the road, almost in a drain as if he was trying to flee in a hurry when he saw them.
The State maintained in its defence of Henry’s claim, he failed to prove the police did not have reasonable or probable cause to charge him or that the police officer who did, acted in bad faith or malice.
Seepersad agreed with the State and ordered Henry to pay its costs of $14,000 to defend his failed lawsuit.
The judge in his ruling after a brief trial said not every time someone was discharged in the magistrates’ court, should a malicious prosecution lawsuit follow. It should be the exception, not the norm, he said.
He said the evidence of the charging officer appearing in the lower court frequently for the case went towards the inference it was not a set-up case since usually, they do not appear in court leading to a dismissal of the charge for want of prosecution.
He also pointed to the evidence that Henry was re-arrested in 2021, after failing to appear in court in 2007, saying the length of time the matter was in the magistrates’ court demonstrated the deficiencies of PIs.
Seepersad said, “I can see no identifiable benefit can be achieved when you have a charge proffered in 2005, but only dealt with by a discharge in 2014, and the high court, in 2021, is dealing with a trial of malicious prosecution.”
As he hoped the system, when PIs are abolished, would operate efficiently and there will be no ‘bottle-necking’ at the High Court when cases go before a Master for sufficiency hearings.
“The change should be welcomed by the public and profession to expedite matters through the criminal justice system.”
Henry was represented by attorney Lemuel Murphy.