Ex-cop awarded $300k for four-day detention with no charges

- File photo
- File photo

A POLICE officer who was arrested but never charged in 2014 will receive $350,000 in compensation from the State.

Justices of Appeal Peter Rajkumar, Ronnie Boodoosingh and James Aboud made this order in a ruling which heavily criticised the police’s long periods of detention of a suspect.

In their ruling, the judges set aside the orders of High Court judge Nadia Kangaloo as they upheld Sadiq Rakeeb Ali’s lawsuit challenging his arrest and his four-day detention.

Rajkumar, who delivered the decision, said Kangaloo failed to evaluate the evidence and appreciate there was no reasonable and probable cause to have arrested Ali. He held that Ali's 96-hour detention was unlawful.

Rajkumar identified nine “significant aggravating factors” associated with Ali’s detention.

“The trial judge, had she conducted any analysis whatsoever of the evidence, was bound to conclude that there was no reasonable and probable cause for his arrest. In those circumstances the entirety of his detention was unlawful.

“The impact that this prolonged unlawful detention in a cell had upon the appellant as a serving police officer was significant. After his release, without charge, he was required to serve with the very officers who were privy to the fact that he had been detained albeit unnecessarily. The stain upon his character and reputation left thereby was indelible.

“He required medical treatment for the mental distress that was occasioned by this treatment.”

Ali, who left the police service in 2015, was arrested after he was told to report to the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) on May 9, 2014. He was told of a report against him which alleged he removed a package of marijuana from a man's mailbox of a man to protect that individual.

In interviews, Ali denied the allegation. He was arrested and told he would be put on an identification parade. Ali alleged he was handcuffed and escorted through the San Fernando police station for the ID parade, which was expected to be held the next day, but was aborted because the other people in the lineup did not look like him.

Ali was detained that night in a cell with another prisoner. On May 11, he was told the lineup would be held the next day, so he spent another night in the cell.

On May 12, a group ID parade was held at the food court of Gulf City Mall in La Romaine. He was not pointed out, but spent another night in the cell.

He was eventually released on May 13, 2014, without being charged.

Rajkumar said there could be no doubt Ali’s detention and the way he was treated made his continuation in the police service “untenable.”

In his criticisms of the police’s actions, Rajkumar said the lack of oversight by senior officers at the station “was alarming.”

“It should have become obvious that the period of reasonable detention, necessary to enable the allegations against the appellant to be investigated, was being rapidly exceeded by lack of action, or lack of effective action, in arranging for the identification parade.

“Damages are a poor compensation for what the claimant, through absolutely no fault of his own, had to endure.”

In arriving at a figure for damages, Rajkumar said there was a “need to emphasise that the conduct (of the police), as well as the misperception that even longer periods of detention were permissible, constitutes oppressive, arbitrary and/or unconstitutional conduct on the part of the State.”

The judge pointed to the evidence of the arresting officer, who did not consider the lengthy detention unusual, since there were people who had been held for more than ten days on inquiries.

“If the perception exists that indefinite detention on inquiries or for questioning is permissible, despite numerous judgments of the courts to the contrary, it needs to be rectified immediately.

“The detention of a person is prima facie tortious and, if without reasonable and probable cause, an infringement of section 4 (a) of the Constitution of TT.

“It is, therefore, for the arrestor to justify the arrest and any continued detention after the arrest must be justified by the detainer,” Rajkumar said.

Ali was represented by Nera Narine-Mollick. Stefan Jaikaran and Kadine Matthew represented the State at the appeal.


"Ex-cop awarded $300k for four-day detention with no charges"

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