Ex-prisoner seeks compensation ordered 14 years ago

Justice Carol Gobin -
Justice Carol Gobin -

ALMOST 14 years after a High Court judge ordered he should receive compensation of $75 a day for the 274 days he spent in a “hellhole” at the remand section of the Port of Spain prison, an ex-prisoner has sued the State for breaching the court’s order.

In 2004, Colin Edghill filed a constitutional motion complaining of the conditions under which he was kept at the prison while awaiting trial for murder.

In 2008, Justice Carol Gobin agreed he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and ordered he should be compensated.

After a court visit to the prison, Gobin, in her judgment, said, "The remand yard ...is a hellhole in which a man presumed innocent is deprived of the elements necessary for human life."

She also said the conditions there at the time were debasing and dehumanising for both prisoners and prison officers assigned to the section.

The judge’s ruling and order were appealed but dismissed in 2013 and in 2016,

Edghill and his then co-accused pleaded guilty to killing former Rotoplastics director Russell Govia on October 27, 2003.

They were sentenced and Edghill would have been released in 2018 after serving his time.

For over a decade, Edghill, through his lawyers, who have changed over time, have written to the State seeking to have the court’s judgment upheld so he can be paid his compensation, which, if interest is added, would be significantly higher than the original $20,550 ordered by Gobin.

In the latest rounds of correspondence with attorneys from the State, Edghill was told the file on his constitutional motion had been archived and had been requested before they could confirm he had not yet been paid the judgment sum.

“In the past eight years, 11 months and 25 days, the State has taken no step to comply with the order of Gobin, J despite repeated requests on my part,” he said in an affidavit in support of his latest legal action against the State.

The matter has been assigned to Justice Joan Charles and will come up for hearing on February 25.

Edghill said the actions of the State have been “deliberate, arbitrary and oppressive and spiteful.”

He said after he was transferred to the remand section of the Golden Grove prison in Arouca and after the court’s judgment, he looked forward to receiving the compensation to assist him while in prison.

Edghill said even after his release, he tried on several occasions to receive the payment, but, “…days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and months turned into years.”

Apart from feeling disappointed and frustrated, he also said he felt the court’s decision in 2008 was worthless.

“It was ineffective and it provided no benefit to me. I felt that the rights that were guaranteed to me under the Constitution were not worth enforcing and the mechanism for enforcement was of no real benefit to me. The cruel and inhumane treatment that I was made to suffer at the hands of the State its servants and or agents was suffered with no real consequence to the State.”

He said he is of the firm view that the State has been able to subvert the process of the court by simply ignoring court orders without consequences.

“It felt as if the State was more powerful than me and could simply ignore the orders of the court.

His original action, he said, "was my means of protecting myself from what was being done to me. I could not provide for myself and my family due to the fact that what the court declared I was entitled to I was unable to enjoy. I was angry (at) the fact that when I wrote to the Attorney General and brought to their attention that the Attorney General had not complied with the order of the court for more than eight years, at no point in time was I told when there would be compliance.”

He also said he was shocked when told the file was in the archives.

“This clearly demonstrated to me that the non-compliance with the order of the court was deliberate and intentional as I could not understand how the file could be archived when I was not paid and there was an order that was still not being complied with.”

Edghill said he has since lost all confidence in the administration of justice and the court’s processes.

When he filed his original action, Edghill was represented by attorneys Fyard Hosein, SC, the late Desmond Allum, SC, Ravi Heffes-Doon and Darryl Allahar. He is now represented by attorneys Gerald Ramdeen and Dayadai Harripaul.


"Ex-prisoner seeks compensation ordered 14 years ago"

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