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No malice in murder charge
Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr has lost his malicious prosecution lawsuit against the State arising out of a murder charge in 2010 which was eventually dropped.
Delivering a judgment in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled that while Magistrate Nalini Singh, who presided over the Coroner’s inquest into the death of Israel Sammy, was wrong to order that Bakr be charged she did not act maliciously.
“Singh’s unreasonable decision to issue a warrant may have been premised upon an erroneous understanding and/or misapplication of the law, but that by itself cannot establish malice and judicial officers can and do often err when rendering judgments as they can wrongly apply and/or interpret the relevant law,” Seepersad said.
He went on: “There is no evidence to suggest that the Coroner (Singh) operated with any improper motive. The evidence reveals that during the course of the inquest, she acted with procedural fairness and the Bakr was given an opportunity to be heard.”
Seepersad also ruled that the lawsuit was misconceived and devoid of merit, as magistrates were protected from malicious prosecution lawsuits in certain circumstances under the Magistrate’s Protection Act (MPA).
“Having considered the law and having noted that the proceedings before the Coroner were inquisitional in nature, it cannot be said that there was a substantive hearing of the charge or that the decision to issue the warrant was a final order as contemplated under Section 6 of the MPA,” Seepersad said.
Coroner inquests are held by magistrates to investigate all unnatural deaths that do not result in criminal charges after a police investigation. They are frequently used to investigate the circumstances surrounding suicides, police killings and deaths in prison.
In his lawsuit, Bakr alleged that Singh acted maliciously when she ordered that he and Brent “Big Brent” Miller be charged with the murder of 22-year-old mechanic in September 2010. Sammy was shot dead behind his Valot Street, Boissiere Village, Maraval on May 20, 1998.
Singh’s decision was largely based on a photocopy of a statement from Miller, which allegedly implicated him and Bakr in the murder. An original was never presented by Singh.
Singh’s decision was eventually overturned one month later when Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, SC, said that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the charge.
During his trial earlier this year, Bakr accused Seepersad of being biased over his dismissal of a parallel constitutional motion over the same issue two years ago, and another malicious prosecution claim in which Bakr was only awarded $5,000 in compensation. Seepersad had refused to recuse himself from the case. Bakr was represented by Farid Scoon. Ravi Rajcoomar represented Singh, while Jagdeo Singh and Kiel Tacklalsingh represented the State.
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