Lawyer’s wife awarded $90,000 for wrongful arrest

The State has been ordered to pay almost $90,000 in compensation to an immigration consultant at a law firm, who was wrongfully detained for 36 hours as part of an investigation by United Kingdom police into fraud committed by her previous employer.

Delivering a 49-page judgment, High Court Judge Ricky Rahim ruled that police had wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned Trishuana Scarlett, of Belmont, in December 2012.

According to the lawsuit, Scarlett claimed that she was asleep at her home when she was awoken by two police officers, who were in her bedroom. Scarlett, who was then pregnant, claimed that the officers refused to tell her the reason for her arrest before they took her to the Fraud Squad’s office in Port-of-Spain.

While there she was informed that two officers from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (UK’s equivalent of the Board of Inland Revenue) were investigating an offence of fraud allegedly committed by her former employer before she migrated to T&T in 2010.

She was eventually released without being charged and later testified against her former employer.

In their defence, the police officers claimed that Scarlett was not arrested and that they merely went to her house to invite her to be interviewed voluntarily. They also claimed that she was not detained at the station and was free to leave when she wanted but chose to stay.

However, in his judgment, Rahim described the police officers testimony as disingenuous as he pointed out that he did not believe their version of the events.

Rahim said he believed Scarlett’s claims which were corroborated by her husband, Farai Hove Masaisai, his brother, sister and mother, who were all at home during the raid. Masaisai and his two siblings are all attorneys.

Rahim said: “It is implausible that a party of armed officers would visit someone at that hour (even if the home is located at Belmont, which the first defendant attempts to infer as the reason for being armed) simply to invite them to come to the station in roughly three hours’ time.”

He also questioned their claims that Scarlett was not being detained.

“It means, if one is to follow the skewed logic, that the burden lies with the detainee to ask to leave in circumstances where she is detained without consent,” Rahim said.

In assessing compensation Rahim ruled that she was entitled to $65,000 in general damages for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

He also awarded $10,000 in exemplary damages for the oppressive and arbitrary action by police.

Rahim noted that because the State’s legal team failed to tender the request for assistance from the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service in the case, he had no basis to say that the police’s action was not arbitrary.

Rahim also ordered Scarlett $10,500 in damages for the police trespassing on her property without a warrant. The State was also ordered to pay her legal fees for bringing the claim. Scarlett was represented by Colvin Blaize.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Derek Achong)

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