POLICE have been asked to hold off on trying to access information on several electronic devices taken from businessman Adrian Scoon until the High Court rules on a judicial review claim challenging the validity of the search warrants authorised by a justice of the peace to the police as part of their investigation of a Boxing Day event on the Ocean Pelican.
The request was made by Scoon’s attorneys after they received the court’s permission to pursue a judicial review claim against the JP who signed off on the search warrants.
Justice Ricky Rahim granted the businessman leave after a sitting on Monday afternoon.
Scoon’s attorneys filed the legal action in the High Court after the licences were allegedly revoked by the comptroller of the Customs and Excise Division when Finance Minister Colm Imbert revealed he did not give his permission for them to be granted.
The revocation also came after police boarded the Ocean Pelican on December 26 where an event was being held. Scoon, the son of Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, has insisted he received permission to operate the vessel as a floating restaurant and was compliant with safe-zone protocols.
Police as part of their investigation executed search warrants on Scoon’s Maraval apartment and his Queen’s Park West, Port of Spain, office.
They were in search of evidence that Scoon or his company allegedly breached public health regulations by operating a party boat contrary to regulation 4 of the public health regulations; held a public party contrary to the regulations; and had a gathering in a public place contrary to regulation 3. He is also being investigated for allegedly uttering forged documents, namely the licences.
The electronic devices were seized included two iPhones, two Macbooks and a flash drive.
Investigators have since asked Scoon to provide the passwords for the devices, but he has refused to do so and his attorneys have asked for an undertaking that they will not try to access information from them until the matter is resolved by the courts.
If no undertaking is given, Scoon’s attorneys are prepared to ask the court for an injunction.
The application seeks to have the court review the decision to issue the warrant and/or quash it on the grounds that the complaint supporting the application for the warrants was “bereft of a single reason, justification or ground” to support it.
It also contended that the police officer, Insp Clifton Ramjattan of the Carenage police station, who requested the warrants claimed to be satisfied there was reasonable grounds for a search yet the complaint submitted to the JP gave no details of fact that could satisfy the request.
The application asked for declarations that the JP’s decision to authorise the warrants was unlawful and that the decision to allow for the extraction of information from computers, tablets or cellular phones was also unlawful.
The complaint which supported the request for the warrant alleged that Scoon had concealed on his premises electronic devices with images, phone contacts, SMS messages, e-mails, call logs, audio files and social media messages, along with other information, giving reasonable grounds for believing there was evidence of the commission of summary offences contrary to the public health regulations.
In his affidavit in support of the application, Scoon said on January 5, he was at home when the police arrived and told him he was under arrest for a breach of the public health regulations.
He said he was not told which particular regulation he was accused of infringing but one of the officers grabbed his phone and said he was taking it.
Scoon said no warrant was shown to him and he was not given an opportunity to call his attorneys.
He was cautioned by Ramjattan for alleged breaches of public health regulations 3 and 4(1) b and c and uttering a forged document (the two special restaurant licences No 28 of 2021 and No 48930.)
Two warrants were shown to him for his home at La Rive and his office. Another warrant was also shown for an address in Westmoorings which he said was his family’s former home that was sold in 2010.
Scoon was taken to his office for a little over an hour while the police searched and seized several items and he was told that he would be taken to an address in St Ann’s where he once lived seven years ago.
“I thought it absurd that they would receive instructions to search somewhere that I have not had any connection with for over seven years but I had no choice but to comply because I was detained at the time.”
Scoon said they spent 25 minutes at the apartment in St Ann’s with the police trying to figure out how to gain entrance to the compound before he was “suddenly” told he was free to leave.
He left with two of his attorneys.
“1 felt embarrassed and violated because of the said incident. The officers detained me for no reason and seized documents which I would have provided voluntarily. I have read the complaint on oath, in support of obtaining the warrant and cannot understand or appreciate what reasonable grounds or reasons are contained therein for the issuance of a search warrant against me.”
He also said he was aware of public statements on the police’s investigation into the Boxing Day event after he was detained and questioned and has written to the acting police commissioner complaining of the police’s conduct that night.
Scoon said he sought the court’s leave to challenge the issuing of the warrants since his devices contain private and confidential commercial and personal files.
He is represented by attorneys Kiel Taklalsingh and Stefan Ramkissoon.
The matter will next come up for hearing on February 1.