Police Commissioner Gary Griffith’s daughter T’Shauna and her husband Da Vvian Bain have threatened to sue the State over the conduct of a group of police officers, who stopped their vehicle and searched it during a roadblock in Couva on Monday.
In individual pre-action protocol letters sent to the Office of the Attorney General, today, lawyers representing the couple claimed that the search was illegal and breached their constitutional rights as the officers did not have reasonable or probable cause to do so.
“The unlawful/negligent/abusive actions of the officers have caused distress, embarrassment, and humiliation to our client, who was targetted because of her personal affiliation and subjected to an arbitrary exercise of coercive power by the officers,” attorney Kristy Mohan said, in her letter on behalf of Griffith’s daughter.
Mohan suggested that her client’s connection to Griffith did not entitle her to special treatment but the officers’ conduct in sharing the recorded video, which included their vehicle’s licence plate number, on social media put them at personal risk.
“The unlawful, unauthorised, unprofessional and unreasonable actions of the officers, whereby they caused to be disseminated at mass volume, private, sensitive and identifying information about our client, have caused our client and her family members to receive threats from unidentified persons of a serious nature following the incident,” Mohan said.
Mohan stated that based on the officers’ conduct during the search and in publishing the video, her client was entitled to compensation.
However, she noted that her client reserved the right to sue the officers, three of whom were identified by their rank and last name, in their personal capacity, so that the cost of the incident would not only be borne by taxpayers through the AG’s Office.
The letter sent on behalf of Bain by attorney Lana Lakhan was mostly phrased similarly.
In both letters, Mohan and Lakhan sought to give a synopsis of their clients’ version of what allegedly transpired in the incident on Easter Monday.
They claimed that they were driving along Rivulet Road in Couva, with Griffith driving and Bain in the passenger seat, when the officers, who were conducting a roadblock, stopped them.
They claimed that Griffith compiled and handed over her driver’s permit and certificate of insurance but was met with instant hostility and aggression from the officers.
They claimed that their clients were ordered to exit the vehicle and Griffith was immediately subjected to a body search by a female police officer, identified as WPC Francis. Bain was not similarly searched.
An officer identified as PC Goinda allegedly threatened to arrest Griffith for “disorderly conduct”.
“Our client was standing in one spot and not acting in any manner that could be described as disorderly or unruly,” Mohan said.
She also claimed that PC Goinda then proceeded to search the vehicle including a bag containing her clothing and underwear. She suggested that the search was in breach of health and safety protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“PC Goinda failed to take proper and/or reasonable care for the safety of our client when he knowingly searched a bag containing personal clothing and her underwear, without the use of gloves and/or other protective measures during a global pandemic,” Mohan said.
In Bain’s letter, Lakhan also suggested that one of the officers, identified as Sgt Badree, used obscene language towards Bain before the couple was allowed to leave without being charged.
In both letters, the couple’s lawyers repeatedly maintained that their clients were never informed by the officers of the reason for the stop and search, during their almost 15-minute interaction, half of which was captured by an officer on camera and posted on social media.
Both Mohan and Lakhan claimed that the officers’ actions breached their clients’ constitutional rights to liberty and security of the person, to enjoyment of property and to respect for private and family life.
Both attorneys gave the AG’s Office 28 days in which to decide whether it accepts responsibility and liability on behalf of the officers, before they proceed to file a lawsuit for unlawful detention, negligence and trespass to property.
Responding to social media rumours after the video was shared on social media, Griffith denied that he had threatened to take disciplinary action against the officers if they did not apologise.
“I have no idea what that is about regarding transfers and apologies. Somebody has a wild imagination,” Griffith said.
He said that the officers were performing their jobs and that he does not get involved in basic police operations.
“Regardless of who they stop. That is our job. Any issue that any citizen has, they can send it to the PCA,” Griffith said.
Griffith’s daughter is also being represented by Jagdeo Singh and Leon Kalicharan, while Singh, Renuka Rambhajan, and Desiree Sankar are appearing alongside Lakhan for Bain.