A regional non-profit organisation has been granted permission to pursue a lawsuit against the Judiciary over its failure to disclose information on criminal cases that were dismissed due to the absence of police officers.
Delivering a written preliminary ruling on Monday, Justice Robin Mohammed granted the High Tide Project leave to pursue its judicial review case as he ruled that it had presented an arguable case with a realistic prospect of success.
According to the organisation’s court filings, it made the request for the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in February, last year.
The Judiciary provided the requested information in relation to such dismissed cases at the San Fernando and Scarborough District Courts but declined its other districts around Trinidad as it claimed that the information could not be easily gathered because those courts’ records are yet to be computerised.
In his preliminary assessment of the case, Justice Mohammed noted that the Judiciary had suggested that the organisation could physically retrieve the information at the individual courts.
He questioned whether such a suggestion was possible considering the lack of computerised databases.
“If unsuccessful, would the Applicant then have to file FOIA Requests to obtain information at each District Court? This seems highly untenable as the Magistracy undoubtedly falls under the umbrella of the Judiciary,” Justice Mohammed said.
He also noted that the Judiciary also failed to give adequate reasons for its decision as required under the legislation.
A case management conference in the case is scheduled to take place on March 17.
Last year, the organisation, which seeks to promote transparency in public institutions, made similar requests from the T&T Police Service (TTPS).
It revealed the disclosure it had received in relation to 254 criminal cases that were dismissed over the past five years due to delinquent police officers.
Of the 254 cases that were investigated for dismissal because of the non-appearance or lack of readiness of police officers, approximately 38 per cent were cases involving serious criminal offences including firearm possession, cocaine trafficking, shooting with intent and attempted murder.
The organisation also noted that the statistics they received, which was divided into 17 police divisions and units, showed that the highest number of dismissed cases investigated came from the North Eastern and Western Divisions.
The statistics also revealed that some identified officers were responsible for several dismissed cases within their unit/division that were investigated. One officer from the Western Division had responsibility for 14 cases that were dismissed.
The disclosed information from the TTPS also revealed that the punishment for officers who committed disciplinary offences was limited to the deduction of a few days pay.
“This has led to a culture which normalises the laying of false charges and shoddy investigative work, since many officers feel no real obligation to bring evidence to court to support the charges laid,” the organisation said in a press release issued on Monday.
The organisation was represented by Randall Hector and Larry Boyer, while Tinuke Gibbons-Glenn represented the Judiciary.