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Judge reserves judgment in 2 cops’ Bail Bill challenge

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A High Court judge has reserved her judgment in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2015, which denies bail to people charged with offences while having guns in their possession. 

Justice Carol Gobin reserved her decision after hearing submissions from attorneys representing the State and two police officers accused of corruption, who were subject to the legislative provisions although firearms were not used in the commission of the criminal acts they are accused of. 

In their lawsuit, the officers—PCs Justin Charles and Ryan Mahabir—are contending that the legislation is arbitrary, as it negatively affects legal holders of guns accused of non-violent offences, whom Parliament did not intend to be captured by the legislation. 

“It is not reasonably justifiable in a society, which has proper regard for the rights and freedoms of the individual, for law enforcement officers, especially police officers, to be penalised for carrying a firearm in the event they are accused of and subsequently charged with a scheduled offence,” their lawsuit stated. 

While the controversial legislation’s sunset clause is scheduled to take effect next month, stopping the provisions, the officers are seeking compensation for the mandatory 120-day period spent on remand before they were granted bail. 

In response to the officers’ claims, state attorneys have contended that the measure was a necessary anti-crime initiative that was legally passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. 

Charles and Mahabir are charged with perverting the course of public justice and with soliciting $1,500 from Michael Lewis on May 2, last year, at St Helena Junction, Piarco, to forgo a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. 

They also are charged with concealing two evidential results from a breathalyser test at the Caroni Police Station. Mahabir faces a third charge of making a false entry into the station diary, claiming that Lewis was held for a loitering offence, warned and allowed to leave the station.

The two were granted $75,000 bail at the Central Police Station but it was revoked after the presiding magistrate informed them their offence was one of the 14 offences under the legislation. They were eventually granted bail at the end of the 120-day period specified in the legislation. 

Fyard Hosein, SC, represented the State, while the officers’ legal team included Anand Ramlogan, SC, Gerald Ramdeen and Kent Samlal. 


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