A former death row inmate has been awarded over $200,000 in compensation after being beaten by a group of prison officers in 2013.
Delivering an oral judgement at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, yesterday morning, High Court Judge Kevin Ramcharan upheld the assault and battery lawsuit brought by Darryl Bissoon.
In his claim, Bissoon was alleging that the first incident occurred as former Prisons Commissioner Sterling Stewart was touring the condemned section of the Port-of-Spain State Prison on December 12, 2013.
At the time, Bissoon was in the area as he was recently convicted of the murder of Colin De Landro. Bissoon eventually won his appeal and is currently awaiting a retrial.
Bissoon claimed that he attempted to get Stewart’s attention to make a complaint and was ignored. He said that after Stewart left the area, he was placed in another cell away from the other prisoners and was beaten.
He claimed that the following day, he was strip-searched and then taken to the toilet area where he was beaten by six other officers.
He suffered blunt force trauma injuries to his neck, head, arms, and abdomen, from both incidents.
In defending the claim, State attorneys denied that Bissoon was beaten on the first day and claimed that reasonable force was used against him, on the second, as he attempted to stab a prison officer while on his way to use to the toilet.
Testifying in the trial of the case in June, prison supervisor Burr Doman, who was one of the officers who intervened when Bissoon allegedly lunged at the officer, challenged Bissoon’s claims as he pointed out that six officers could not fit in the area that Bissoon was allegedly attacked.
He claimed that the officer who was attacked and another colleague wrestled for a short time before he intervened and struck Bissoon in his ribs.
When quizzed by Bissoon’s lawyer Gerald Ramdeen, Doman could not give an explanation for why Bissoon’s medical reports said he suffered injuries to his neck and head although he (Doman) claimed that Bissoon was not struck there in the exchange.
In his evidence, acting Assistant Superintendent Curtis James, who was the supervisor on duty at the prison, when the first incident allegedly occurred, claimed that no records of the incident were made as no force was used, as claimed by Bissoon.
James could not speak about the other alleged incident, on the following day, as he was not on duty.
During his testimony, James also admitted that he was threatened by Bissoon on the day of the first incident but claimed that he did not take it seriously.
“It is routine to be threatened. I am still alive today so we know that not all threats are carried out and are real,” James said.
In assessing the compensation for Bissoon, Ramcharan awarded $140,000 in general damages for the injuries Bissoon suffered and $50,000 in exemplary damages, which is intended to serve as a deterrent against similar conduct by prison officers in the future.
Bissoon was also represented by Darryl Herralal and Umesh Maharaj.
Reporter: Derek Achong