Mason gets $225,000 for bogus gang charge

In awarding more than $225,000 in compensation to a mason who was charged under the now-lapsed Anti-Gang legislation, a judge found the police used the State of Emergency (SOE) as a cover to pin a false charge against him.

Delivering the ruling in favour of Mark Huggins in a malicious prosecution lawsuit yesterday in the San Fernando High Court, Justice Devindra Rampersad found the police officer acted with malice and illegally.

“I found it incredible that they would allege (Huggins) being a gang member was involved in robberies and not even a robbery could be identified. I found there was malice,” said Rampersad.

Huggins was one of the hundreds of people arrested under the 2011 SOE but released after the State discontinued proceedings against them.

Huggins was charged in August 2011 with being a gang member and remanded in prison until his release on September 29, that year. Police Constable Ashton Khadoo claimed he knew for three years and saw him several times with people known to be involved in criminal activities.

Khadoo said he received information Huggins was involved in robberies and the sale of narcotics in the Pleasantville area. However, Huggins, who was represented by attorney Kevin Ratiram, denied the officer’s allegations.

In his judgment, the judge found PC Khadoo’s actions and the manner in which he brought the charge against Huggins were indicative of an improper motive.

“That improper motive was obviously to hide under the blanket of the State of Emergency and the provisions of the then-recent Anti-Gang legislation to try to pin a charge on a person who was probably suspected of illicit activities, but against whom there was absolutely no evidence. It was an act which was oppressive and, in the court’s respectful view, illegal.”

Dismissing the allegations that Huggins was involved in robberies or illegal sale of narcotics, the judge said, “The knowledge, in my mind, is indicative of a deliberate abuse of the State of Emergency to oppress the claimant leading to a definite inference of malice which is quite apart from the inference which arose as a result of the failure to have any reasonable and probable cause to arrest and charge the claimant.”

Huggins was awarded $225,000 in general damages together with interest from September 2015, special damages of $1,000 together with interest from September 2011 and exemplary damages in the sum of $30,000. Additionally, the judge ordered the State to pay the legal costs in the sum of $48,162.66.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Sascha Wilson)

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