Gym owner wants 'false' information removed from police database

Businessman Michael St John. -
Businessman Michael St John. -

Businessman Michael St John has sent a pre-action protocol letter to Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher hoping he can get her to correct and delete “false, misleading and erroneous information” about him on a police database.

The letter was sent on April 19 and has a 14-day deadline for a response from the CoP.

At a media briefing in Port of Spain on April 20, former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, and attorney Om Lalla said their client wished to have his record and name cleared so he can get clearance from the United States to apply for a Green Card, which will allow him to live and work permanently in the US.

They declined to specify the nature of the alleged false information on St John’s record.

St John is a music promoter and owner and managing director of the D’Dial Fitness gym. He was shot in the face in January in the parking lot of Long Circular Mall.

Lalla said the “false” information had seriously injured St John’s reputation even as the police service confirmed he had a clean record.

“This matter involves a very serious issue of both human rights and constitutional rights, as it affects the security of the person when false information is held by public authority.”

“The revelation of this false information stored on a police database raises serious issues on the integrity of the system and the damage, not only to our client but others who may be unaware of the existence of this data system where information could be stored and manipulated.

“The danger of national security agencies having a system that may have been corrupted or compromised is a serious indictment on the integrity of our national security.”

Lalla called for the matter to be investigated and for an audit of the Versadex system, one database system used by the police to record and store criminal records of people, which could be accessed by other entities including banks and embassies.

Further explaining the situation Maharaj said St John discovered the issue in 2017 when he applied for a US Green Card. He was told he satisfied all the criteria, including a certificate of good character from the police.

However, at an interview at the US Embassy in TT, he was told there was something in his local records which affected his application but he was not told what that was.

After five years of investigations, he was sent a screenshot of the troublesome entry in the police database dated March 13, 2017.

He instructed his lawyers at the time to write to the commissioner of police requesting the police investigate the entry of the “false” information and for it to be removed.

The letter, dated April 7, 2022, also pointed out the information could negatively affect his business interests as well as his applications for certain licences, permits, insurance and loans as agencies accept that information without question.

In a reply dated July 26, 2022, the police said it took no responsibility for the information in the screenshots, that St John had a clean record and that the information in the screenshots was not related to St John. Therefore, it said the request to remove the information was not applicable.

In 2022 and 2024, St John received more screenshots of the database with some amendments but the changes did not correct the false information.

Maharaj said officers of the Strategic Services Agency and specially authorised officers of the police had access to input data and the database, including the Versadex System, could be accessed from all police stations.

He said Sections 36 and 39 of the Freedom of Information Act said if a public authority was holding someone’s personal information and it was incorrect, the information had to be corrected by that authority. If it was not corrected, the individual could go for a judicial review and compel the authority to correct it.

He said that even if the information was not created by the police but the police used and controlled the information, it had to accept responsibility for it. He said anyone could be accused of serious offences and they would not allowed to deal with the allegations.

“If it (police) says it doesn’t know anything about Versadex system – it doesn’t know it, it doesn’t own it, it doesn’t have anything to do with it – the TTPS had an option of putting a supplementary statement on the TTPS record to show that he has a certificate of good character but that (the Versadex record) is untrue, it’s false and Versadex system is false. They didn’t do that.”

He said if it was an intelligence gathering system he could understand allegations and “false” information being present but such would not be divulged to other parties. Since it stored criminal records and was being accessed by others, he believed the matter was one for the government to look at.


"Gym owner wants ‘false’ information removed from police database"

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