Man awarded $200,000 for police beating in bar brawl

Date: 
Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - 23:00

A Cu­mu­to man, who was beat­en by an off-du­ty po­lice of­fi­cer in bar brawl be­fore be­ing false­ly charged with a string of crim­i­nal of­fences, has re­ceived over $200,000 in com­pen­sa­tion. 

 

In a 31-page judg­ment High Court Judge Devin­dra Ram­per­sad up­held the un­law­ful ar­rest, un­law­ful de­ten­tion, and ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion case brought by Miguel Benoit against PCs Ke­ston Hanooman, Im­ran Cas­sar, and Justin Du­ri­ty and the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al. 

Ram­per­sad's de­ci­sion in the case was based on the fact that Benoit's ev­i­dence was un­con­tro­vert­ed due to is­sues with the of­fi­cers' ev­i­dence.

Hanooman, who was the pro­tag­o­nist, failed to ac­cede to State at­tor­neys' re­quests for him to sign his wit­ness state­ment, while his col­leagues signed theirs af­ter the dead­line for do­ing so had ex­pired. 

De­scrib­ing the of­fi­cers' ac­tions as a se­ri­ous dere­lic­tion of du­ty, Ram­per­sad said: "Every­one is busy, no doubt, is the con­stant cry. Of­fi­cers of the law, though, should nev­er be too busy to try to es­tab­lish the law or main­tain the pro­pri­ety of their ac­tions." 

 

In his judg­ment, Ram­per­sad or­dered Hanooman to pay Benoit $7,500 for the in­juries he sus­tained when Hanooman at­tacked him with a beer bot­tle dur­ing the brawl. 

He or­dered that the three of­fi­cers and the AG's Of­fice pay Benoit $75,000 in gen­er­al dam­ages for his un­law­ful ar­rest and de­ten­tion, $50,000 for ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion and $12,500 in spe­cial dam­ages. The State was al­so made to foot Benoit's $46,196.34 le­gal bill for bring­ing the law­suit.

Ram­per­sad al­so con­sid­ered whether ex­em­plary dam­ages, which seeks to serve as a de­ter­rent against sim­i­lar ac­tion in the fu­ture, was ap­pro­pri­ate in the case. 

He not­ed that while judges had made such or­ders in the past, the con­cerns raised by them ap­peared to have been ig­nored as the State con­tin­ues to in­dem­ni­fy of­fi­cers.  

Ram­per­sad not­ed that the court could on­ly make such or­ders but it was up to the State to take ac­tion against er­rant of­fi­cers.

Ram­per­sad al­so or­dered that the Reg­is­trar of the Supreme Court send copies of his judge­ment to Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith and the Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­i­ty for them to in­ves­ti­gate the of­fi­cers. 

Ac­cord­ing to the ev­i­dence in the case, Benoit's first in­ter­ac­tion with Hanooman came on April 28, 2013, as he was play­ing cards in a bar in his com­mu­ni­ty. 

He claimed that he had a dis­agree­ment with a man and the man's friend, iden­ti­fied as Shaquille, be­came ag­gres­sive. 

Benoit at­tempt­ed to leave but was stopped by Shaquille's broth­er, who he lat­er learned was Hanooman. 

Hanooman al­leged­ly grabbed him by his neck and hit him on his fore­head with a beer bot­tle. 

Af­ter he re­gained con­scious­ness, Benoit made a re­port of the in­ci­dent to the po­lice. 

Sev­er­al days lat­er, Benoit was at a par­lour in the com­mu­ni­ty with his two sons when he was ap­proached by Hanooman, Cas­sar, Du­ri­ty and an­oth­er of­fi­cer. 

 

The three of­fi­cers, named in the law­suit, ar­rest­ed Benoit de­spite protests from their col­league. 

Benoit claimed that he was threat­ened by the three of­fi­cers be­fore Hanooman charged him for es­cap­ing law­ful cus­tody, throw­ing mis­siles, us­ing ob­scene lan­guage and pos­ses­sion of a weapon. 

The case was called sev­er­al times be­fore it was even­tu­al­ly dis­missed by a San­gre Grande mag­is­trate be­cause the of­fi­cers failed to ap­pear. 

Benoit was rep­re­sent­ed by Shan­non Sama­roo-Suraj and Ivan Daniel, while An­drew La­m­ont, Rachael Ja­cob, and Avaria Niles rep­re­sent­ed the State. 

 - Derek Achong

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