A High Court judge has set aside the warrants the police used in their investigations of businessman Adrian Scoon.
They were probing allegations that he breached public health regulations by holding a public party and operating a party boat without permission on Boxing Day, last year.
The court’s ruling comes days before Scoon reappears before a Port of Spain magistrate on charges of breaching regulations on public gatherings in excess of ten people.
On March, Scoon, the son of Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, and 91 other people, said to be patrons of the brunch on his Ocean Pelican vessel, appeared before magistrate Kerrianne Byer. They are expected to return to court on Monday.
On Friday, Justice Ricky Rahim set aside the warrants used in the police investigations of the issuing of special restaurant licences to Scoon by the Customs and Excise Division, and possible breaches of the pandemic regulations.
Scoon challenged the validity of the warrants, signed off by justice of the peace Oliver Boodhu, which were used to search his Maraval apartment and his office at Queen’s Park West, Port of Spain, in January. During the searches, the police seized several electronic devices, including cellphones and computers.
Rahim gave his decision in the absence of submissions or a defence from the JP or the Solicitor General for the State, who had a deadline of Thursday to respond to Scoon’s lawsuit.
In his order, Rahim noted the two parties had been served with the proceedings, but failed to attend court on any of the occasions the matter was called to lead evidence and make submissions.
Having determined the claim on its merits, he declared the decision of the JP to authorise the warrants to search Scoon’s premises was unlawful, null and void and of no effect.
He also declared that the decision to issue a search warrant to extract data from Scoon's computers and cellphones was unlawful.
Friday’s decision was the second adverse decision against the police’s actions.
Another judge denied a special warrant, sought under the Interception of Communications Act, to force Scoon to provide the passwords to his electronic devices so police could search for information about the promotion of the Boxing Day event .
In March, Justice Geoffrey Henderson said he was of the view that the request was excessive and disproportionate, in light of the fact that investigators were seeking evidence that Scoon advertised the event on social media.
The searches came after the special restaurant licences issued to him for the Ocean Pelican were reportedly revoked by the comptroller of the Customs and Excise Division. Finance Minister Colm Imbert revealed he had raised concerns over granting them because of pandemic restrictions.
Scoon has insisted he had permission to run the vessel as a floating restaurant and complied with safe-zone protocols.
One of his attorneys, Kiel Taklalsingh, said this was the second decision of the High Court to “condemn the police’s procedure and investigation in this matter.
“Justice Henderson found that police did not have enough evidence to justify entry into Mr Scoon's electronic devices and today, the court has quashed the warrant used to seize Mr Scoon's property, all of which will now have to be returned to him."
He said the investigation "seemed to be driven by Schadenfreude (pleasure at someone else's misfortune) rather than legitimate cause or evidence.
"My client eagerly awaits the hearing of magisterial proceedings to further vindicate his name and reputation,” he said.
Attorney Larry Williams is representing Scoon in the matters at the magistrates’ court.