The State has been ordered to pay almost $100,000 in compensation to a police officer, who was detained for three days as part of an investigation into the theft of CCTV footage from the scene of a shooting in Aranguez in 2017.
In a 62-page judgement delivered, last Friday, High Court Judge Margaret Mohammed upheld PC Anand Dass’ false imprisonment claim against the State.
According to the evidence in the case, Dass, who was assigned to the North Eastern Division Task Force (NEDTF), was one of several police officers that responded to the report of the shooting at a Chinese restaurant in Aranguez on August 12, 2017.
The following day, Dass was arrested by investigators of the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) as part of their investigation into a digital video recording (DVR) device that was allegedly stolen from the restaurant while police officers were processing the crime scene.
Dass spent almost 75 hours in police custody before he was released after investigators consulted with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
In her judgement, Mohammed ruled that at the time of Dass’ arrest, investigators had not received an official report from one of his colleagues, who claimed to have seen him escorting a civilian with a package from the area of the restaurant where the equipment was stored.
“In my opinion, a reasonable person who was in possession of the aforesaid objective facts would not have formed the genuine suspicion that the claimant had committed any offence,” Mohammed said.
She also noted that while Dass remained in custody, investigators failed to have the owner of the restaurant, who allegedly corroborated the officer’s claim against Dass, participate in an identification parade. They also failed to recover the device after searching Dass’ workspace and home.
“In my opinion, the claimant’s continued detention after his arrest was not justified as PC Joefield did not have in his possession any additional information which would have caused a reasonable, prudent person in his position to still suspect that he had committed a crime,” Mohammed said.
While Mohammed ruled that Dass was entitled to damages for being forced to endure unsanitary conditions in a holding cell, she noted that he exaggerated his claims over the embarrassment he suffered.
“Given that the claimant was taken to his home in an unmarked police vehicle without the use of police sirens, at night when it was dark and he was not handcuffed, it is less probable that the claimant’s neighbours were standing outside on the roadway looking on at what was taking place,” she said.
Mohammed ordered the State to pay Dass $75,000 in damages and $20,000 to cover his legal costs for bringing the lawsuit.
Dass was represented by Jared Jagroo and Alana Rambaran, while Niquelle Nelson Grandville and Laura Persad represented the State.