The State has been ordered to pay over $250,000 in compensation to a hunter from Claxton Bay, whose licenced firearm remained detained by police even after he was acquitted of criminal charges.
Donald Mohammed successfully applied for a default judgement in his lawsuit against the State, last year, but High Court Master Sherlanne Pierre only assessed the compensation due to him in an oral decision delivered during a virtual hearing on Tuesday.
According to the evidence in the case, Mohammed purchased the firearm in 2007 after he was granted a Firearm User’s Licence (FUL) by the Commissioner of Police.
In May 2011, Mohammed was contacted by police, who were investigating the shooting of a man in the area.
Mohammed was initially allowed to leave custody after he presented his firearm and FUL to police, however, he was re-arrested several months later.
Mohammed’s shotgun, shotgun cartridges and FUL were again seized and he was charged with possession of an illegal firearm (not the shotgun) and for wounding the man, who was shot months earlier.
When the charges were dismissed by a magistrate in July 2015, Mohammed’s lawyers wrote to the T&T Police Service (TTPS) to have the items returned.
He was forced to file the lawsuit after he was informed that the firearm was destroyed by police.
In her decision, Pierre ordered the State to cover the almost $10,000 Mohammed paid for the firearm.
She also ordered almost $250,000 in compensation for the loss of use of the firearm as Mohammed claimed that he would use it to hunt and then supplement his income by selling the meat.
Attached to Mohammed’s claim was an estimate of the number of wild animals hunted by Mohammed annually prior to the seizure of the firearm and the prices he sold such animal carcasses for.
Mohammed claimed that on average he would make $73,000 annually from the exercise.
As part of her decision, Pierre also ordered the State to reimburse the $720 Mohammed spent on hunting permits before pursuing the lawsuit.
She also ordered the State to pay the legal costs incurred by Mohammed by pursuing the lawsuit.
Mohammed was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Alvin Pariagsingh and Robert Abdul-Mitchell, while Stefan Jaikaran and Savitri Maharaj represented the Office of the Attorney General.