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$300,000 for wrongful arrest

By JADA LOUTOO Thursday, October 3 2013

A HIGH COURT judge has awarded close to $300,000 in damages to a young technician whose reputation was tarnished by three policemen who also concocted a story to justify their actions in arresting and detaining the technician in 2009.

Justice Peter Rajkumar said he took into consideration the mental torment and humiliation experienced by Ijaz Bernadine of Fairley Street, Tunapuna, after he was assaulted and wrongfully arrested on May 14, 2009. He said a strong message that such action by police must be condemned as high handed and oppressive.

Bernadine sued the State for false imprisonment and battery after he claimed his rights to retain a legal adviser of his choice and to communicate with a friend or relative were denied when he was arrested and kept in a cell at a police station for 15 hours.

Rajkumar in his ruling in July 2012, chastised the conduct of three officers whom he said sought to tarnish the reputation of a young technician by alleging he was associated with criminals and criminal activity.

Bernadine was granted two declarations that his constitutional rights were infringed and was awarded damages and exemplary damages for false imprisonment, assault and battery as well as damages for violation of his constitutional rights. The quantum of damages were assessed by the judge and his decision was given yesterday.

Bernadine was represented by attorney Michael Rooplal. In his ruling, Rajkumar said the indefensible conduct of police officers Clinton Harripersad, Hubert La Rode and Challenor Chadee, “should send a chill down the spine of right thinking citizens.”

“It is conduct which embodies the worst nightmares of law abiding citizens...that they themselves or their families could be branded as criminals, treated as such and face the full force of agents of the State without recourse,” the judge said in his ruling last year.

In his assessment, the judge ordered the State to pay aggravated damages for assault and battery in the sum of $55,000; $45,000 for false imprisonment, $100,000 in damages at the rate of six percent per annum from July 16, 2010 to July 31, 2013 and a further $90,000 in exemplary damages.

In his ruling on the assessment, Justice Rajkumar said, “there is no justification for behaviour such as has occurred here, where a citizen is subjected to arbitrary and excessive brutality, at the whim of those entrusted to protect and serve. Failure to condemn such behaviour in the strongest possible terms amounts to countenancing and condoning it, This is incompatible with the duty of the courts in a civilised country which subscribes to the recognition, protection and enforcement of basic standards of treatment of its citizen.”

Bernadine claimed that on May 14, 2009, after he left work at Caribbean Cinemas at Trincity Mall, close to midnight, he was shot at and when he eventually stopped his car in St Augustine, was ordered to put his hands outside the car window and he complied.

He said he was then struck with a hard object on the right side of his face and then dragged out of his car and beaten and kicked until he lost consciousness. He was then handcuffed and placed in the tray of a vehicle and taken to the police station where a PC Harripersad said that he was going to, “give you arms and ammunition or narcotics” charges.

Bernadine said he was taken to hospital to receive treatment to the blow on his face which was bleeding. He said before being taken to the hospital, he asked if he could call his father, Edison Bernadine a police officer, but this was refused.

Bernadine said he was detained for approximately 15 hours and was never informed of his rights and was extremely hurt, upset, and humiliated by the incident. Lee Merry and Savitri Maharaj appeared for the Attorney General.

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