A High Court judge has ordered the release of a man wrongly arrested on a warrant for owing maintenance for his child because the Judiciary’s CourtPay system did not reflect his payments.
Simeon Belfon was arrested on Friday.
On Monday, Justice Karen Reid ordered his release after his lawyers filed a writ of habeas corpus.
Reid said the court was satisfied Belfon paid the $25,200 in arrears he owed.
Belfon now intends to seek compensation for his wrongful arrest and detention at the Eastern Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre over the weekend.
According to the writ application, in 2019, Belfon was ordered to pay $1,200 a month for his five-year-old child. In December 2021, a warrant was issued because he was in arrears.
Two months later he surrendered to police and when he appeared in court, he said he had paid $12,600, but needed time to pay the balance. He was given time to do so.
The writ application said Belfon’s first set of payments were not reflected on the CourtPay system, nor was the balance added over the period April 2022-June 2023.
Belfon was arrested on the job on Friday, and police told his wife he would have to pay the $25,200 owing on maintenance in cash. Although the police were told he had paid and were given receipts for the payments, they told his wife the payments were not reflected in their systems.
At the ECRC, prison officials also said Belfon would have to pay the full amount on the warrant to be released.
“The police officers ought to have done the necessary investigations which would have revealed that all outstanding arrears stipulated on the warrant of commitment were paid,” the writ application contended.
Included in the application were copies of the CourtPay payment receipts.
CourtPay was launched in 2019 as part of a suite of e-services offered by the Judiciary.
In 2021, Chief Justice Ivor Archie said CourtPay “was born” because the then-existing systems for
collecting and disbursing maintenance and payment of fines and fees were paper-based. This, he said, required physical attendance, causing lost productivity for the judiciary and clients alike, and did not take into account the fact that a large percentage of the population was unbanked.
Over 9,000 customers access maintenance funds through the CourtPay system.
Belfon was represented by attorneys Keron Ramkhalwhan and Sitara Bhagirathee of the law firm Justitia Chambers.