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Alleyne freed of resisting arrest
Police officers must be prepared to come to court to justify their arrests which deprive citizens of their liberty. That was the message sent by attorney Larry Lalla to the police, moments after his client, Ian Alleyne, was found not guilty of resisting ASP Ajith Persad in the execution of his duties. Lalla said: “At the end of the day no proper grounds were presented to show why Mr Alleyne was arrested and that is why he is free today.”
In an oral ruling, delivered in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court yesterday morning, Senior Magistrate Annette McKenzie ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” Alleyne was guilty of the offence. McKenzie pointed to several “areas of doubt” in the state’s case which she said raised questions in the court’s mind over whether Alleyne’s arrest was unlawful. “There is no clarity in the prosecution evidence as to the reason the defendant was arrested,” McKenzie said.
According to the evidence, Persad first visited Alleyne on December 29, 2011 while investigating an offence under the Sexual Offences Act related to the broadcasting on the Crime Watch programme of a video of a minor being raped.
Persad returned to Caribbean Communication Network (CCN)’s Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, offices on April 19, the following year, to detain Alleyne for questioning. The incident was captured by television cameras and occurred in front of a large boisterous crowd of Alleyne’s fans who had gathered outside.
Shortly after being detained, Alleyne complained of feeling unwell and was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. He was then transferred to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, where he remained warded for four days before investigators executed four warrants related to the charges against him. McKenzie said from her analysis of the legislation relating to police powers of arrest, the police were required to inform a suspect of the exact grounds for the arrest before doing so.
“There is no evidence that Alleyne was told in December 2011 or in April 2012 that he broadcast on his Crime Watch programme a tape which revealed the identity of a young woman being raped,” McKenzie said. She also said there was no evidence Persad had actually viewed the programme in which the offence allegedly occurred.
McKenzie said police were only allowed to arrest a suspect without a warrant in instances when they had reasonable cause to suspect that a criminal offence was being or about to be committed or in circumstances where a person is about to commit a breach of the peace. She said there was no evidence which showed that Alleyne had committed any such act.
“While it could be argued he was about to breach the peace when he threw himself on a car before being subdued and placed in handcuffs, no one in the crowd was arrested for breaching the peace that night,” McKenzie said. In dismissing the charges, McKenzie also raised an issue over the prosecution’s failure to establish a chain of custody after Alleyne was detained which, she said, would have supported the notion that he was lawfully arrested.
“Was he a free person or an arrested person? Was he under police guard or handcuffed to a bed? How was he transported from Port-of-Spain Hospital to Mt Hope and on whose authority?” McKenzie asked. She said from the limited evidence, the court had to infer that Alleyne was a free man when the arrest warrants were executed at the hospital, almost four days after he was detained by Persad.
“Why did Persad obtain a warrant four days after Alleyne allegedly resisted his arrest? Was it because he was not confident of this arrest?” McKenzie asked. In October last year, after state prosecutors concluded their case, Alleyne’s attorney, Israel Khan, SC, made a no-case submission which McKenzie eventually overruled. Khan had argued that Alleyne’s arrest was illegal because the police did not have reasonable cause to suspect he had committed an offence and had failed to inform him of the grounds for the arrest.
“If the arrest is unlawful, he could not be resisting,” Khan said. In an interview after McKenzie’s ruling, Khan said he had always maintained that Alleyne was innocent. He described the officers’ actions as “anxious,” saying the police should be more “cautious” when arresting people in the future. “It is unfortunate that this victory did not come before the by-election in St Joseph,” Khan said.
However, Alleyne, the former UNC candidate, who lost to the PNM’s Terrance Deyalsingh, did not share Khan’s view of the effect of the publicity surrounding his case on the results of the by-election on November 4 last year. He also maintained that his actions in airing the controversial video were justified. “We all know with respect to airing that video, I did absolutely nothing wrong. My job is to catch criminals, I got the suspects and everybody is before the courts. I took a blow for the ground with that one,” Alleyne said.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has lodged an appeal within hours of the magistrate’s decision.
Ian Alleyne was also charged with three offences under Section 32 (2) of the Sexual Offences Act which makes it an offence to reveal the identity of a rape victim during a broadcast. Alleyne was jointly charged with his former broadcaster Caribbean Communications Network (CCN) with the offences, which stem from the video depicting the rape of a 13-year-old which was allegedly aired three times on CCN’s television station TV 6 from October 24 to 26, 2011.
Alleyne’s popular Crime Watch programme is now aired on CNC3. CCN is also facing six charges under the Telecommunications Act for alleged breaches of its licence and concession. CCN has denied the nine charges. In March last year, Alleyne pleaded guilty to the three offences and was fined $30,000.
While being interviewed yesterday, Alleyne expressed regret over his early guilty plea while making an obvious jab at his former lawyer and friend Om Lalla who contested the St Joseph by-election for the Independent Liberal Party (ILP). “You know at the initial stage, I should have never pleaded guilty but maybe I was wrongfully advised,” Alleyne said.