A High Court judge has awarded a soldier with the T&T Defence Force over $200,000 in damages, interests and costs after he won a case of malicious prosecution against the State.
Deeming the police investigation as highly suspicious, Justice Ricky Rahim ordered the State to compensate soldier Cliff Lewis, who had been wrongly charged for wounding Kelvin Alleyne in Tunapuna on May 16, 2008.
Lewis surrendered to the police on December 30, 2009, after he learned there was a criminal complaint against him.
He was taken to court and was eventually committed to stand trial in the High Court on February 1, 2012, on an indictment of burglary and wounding with intent.
On February 18, 2016, he was acquitted by a jury.
His attorney Kevin Ratiram argued that the police investigation was inadequate and the investigator failed to gather basic evidence before charging Lewis.
Justice Rahim said, “the failure by Sgt La Rode to properly investigate in light of the obvious deficiency in the evidence meant that malice can be inferred.”
La Rode was the second investigator appointed in the case. However, in his ruling, Justice Rahim said it was suspicious that La Rode could not find the first investigator when he took up the case against Lewis.
He also ruled that “the actions of La Rode were highly suspicious bearing in mind that there was no identification of (Lewis) in the initial report but one year later Sgt Rode recorded a statement from Alleyne in which Alleyne readily and comfortably identifies (Lewis) and gives an implausible reason for not identifying Lewis at the time of the incident.”
Reminding the police of their responsibility to uphold the law without abusing their powers, Justice Rahim said: “the TTPS would do well to ensure that abuse of this kind is eradicated from the service.” He added that when the police abuse their powers tremendous harm is done to both the citizen and public confidence in the TTPS.”
He noted that there was an onerous responsibility on the police to ensure that they do not abuse their powers.
In passing judgement Justice Rahim ordered the State to pay Lewis general damages for malicious prosecution inclusive of an uplift for aggravation in the sum of $120,000 with interest at the rate of 2.5 per cent per annum from the date of filing of the claim to the date of judgment.
Lewis will also receive exemplary damages in the sum of $20,000 as well as a further $53,500 as special damages with interest at the rate of 1.25 per cent per annum from the date of arrest to the date of judgment, as well as legal costs. This amounts to over $247,000.
The State was represented by attorneys Ebo Jones and Ryan Grant.