Acting Commissioner of Police James Philbert has come in for criticism from a High Court judge who awarded damages to a former Special Reserve Policeman (SRP) for malicious prosecution and unlawful detention.
As far as Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh was concerned, "it was plain to me that there was an intention to punish the claimant because there was a belief, even if unreasonably, that he had used obscene language to someone who was either the wife of a police officer or someone known to "big police", perhaps even the acting Commissioner of Police himself." Boodoosingh added: "It is noteworthy in this regard that the instructions came from the acting Commissioner of Police, a fact that only came out in cross-examination."
He said a Commissioner of Police was entitled to treat seriously any report made to him about the conduct of his police officers. He said: "Nothing I say here should be perceived as implying that reports of misconduct should not be properly and efficiently investigated. "Nothing must be perceived as implying that the Commissioner of Police should not personally get involved in an investigation, especially when it relates to the alleged conduct of one of his officers.
"At the same time, a police officer accused of crime is also entitled, as any other citizen, to a fair investigation and all the procedural protections that the law affords." Stephen Lewis, 38, of Quarry Village, Siparia, was awarded $75,000 for malicious prosecution, and another $50,000 for unlawful detention. The Attorney General has been ordered to pay a further $27,975 in costs. The court heard that on April 13 and 14, 2006, Lewis visited the San Fernando General Hospital where his brother was a patient. He said he had to speak to a nurse, Laurel Knutt, about the manner in which she spoke to him.
She replied she did not care about that, that her husband was a police officer and she knew a "lot of big police." The following day, Lewis said he had to speak to Knutt again about how she spoke to people. Knutt made a report and one Corporal Gerald Mc Intosh was directed to investigate the matter. The nurse had reported that Lewis used obscene language. During cross-examination of Mc Intosh, Boodoosingh said certain matters came out. It was there it was discovered that the report by Knutt was made to Philbert. Mc Intosh said: "I was instructed to conduct the investigations, re: alleged obscene language. Acting Commissioner Philbert instructed me to carry out the investigation.
"I received information from Philbert that an offence had allegedly taken place at Ward Three of the San Fernando General Hospital. "I was told I was required to go and interview nurse Knutt and other nurses. I went to the San Fernando General Hospital as a result of then acting commissioner." The court also heard that around 1.30 am on April 27, 2006, Mc Intosh and other police officers went to Lewis' home. Mc Intosh said he was 'invited' to enter the home and to look for Lewis. He found Lewis hiding. Lewis had a different version. He said the officers barged into his home without a warrant and told him he was "lock up." Boodoosingh said Mc Intosh's version was unbelievable.