Legal letters fly in support of AG’s wife
Legal letters are flying fast to prevent publication of any story on Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and his wife Nalini.
Like her husband, Nalini Ramlogan is now threatening to take the Express and reporter Anika Gumbs to court should “falsities” be published about her.
Attorney Jagdeo Singh, who is representing Mrs Ramlogan, wrote Express editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder last Saturday stating that he had been instructed by his client “to take all such action as may be necessary to protect her good name and to prevent her from being brought into odium and disrepute”.
Singh’s letter follows a similar one from senior counsel Pamela Elder on September 5 on behalf of the AG, threatening legal action against the Express should “falsities” be published about him.
These legal letters have been issued as Gumbs pursues the facts behind certain information given to her by sources.
Mrs Ramlogan, like her husband, is also alleging that Gumbs posed as a police officer twice, first at Palmiste, where the Ramlogans live, and then at the home of Mrs Ramlogan’s parents in Barrackpore, where Gumbs had gone in pursuit of the story last week.
Gumbs has again been reminded in the lawyer’s letter that impersonating a police officer could land her in jail along with a fine.
In response to Mrs Ramlogan’s allegations, Gumbs yesterday vehemently denied that she identified herself as a friend of the Ramlogan family when she approached Mrs Ramlogan for an interview last week.
In fact, Express records show that Gumbs was identified as a journalist by the Ramlogans’ domestic helper, Goomatie Ragbir, who had worked with Gumbs at the Guardian South Bureau and Gumbs identified herself as “Anika” to Mrs Ramlogan.
The Express can also prove that Mrs Ramlogan never asked Gumbs to leave the premises where she lives as alleged in Singh’s letter.
In fact, at the end of the interview, Gumbs told Mrs Ramlogan: “Okay, have a good day,” to which she replied: “You too.”
Further, Express records show that no interview was ever conducted with Mrs Ramlogan’s neighbour Abdel Mohammed, who, according to Singh’s letter, is alleging that Gumbs impersonated a police officer attached to San Fernando Police Station when she approached him.
Attorney Singh also wrote “that any publication by you of matters relating to these falsities (including the publication of pre-action letters) would result in legal proceedings being instituted against both your newspaper and Ms Gumbs-Sandiford. In the circumstances, I ask you to note that I have my client’s firm instructions to take all such action as may be necessary to protect her good name and to prevent her from being brought into odium and disrepute”.
Following is the full text of the letter from attorney Jagdeo Singh to Express editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder:
13 Havelock Street
7th September, 2013
Ms Omatie Lyder
The Editor in Chief
The Trinidad Express
35-37 Independence Square
Port of Spain.
Re: Slanderous words and utterances made by Ms Anika Gumbs-Sandiford against Mrs Nalini Ramlogan.
I act on behalf of Mrs Nalini Ramlogan, wife of Senator the Honourable Anand Ramlogan, Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago. This letter is issued pursuant to the Practice Direction issued by the Honourable Chief Justice governing pre-action protocol letters.
I am instructed that on or about the 3rd September, 2013 Ms Anika Gumbs-Sandiford gained access to a gated community in Palmiste, San Fernando, where my client resides and thereupon visited the home of my client. Ms Gumbs-Sandiford was able to deceive the security strictures attendant upon the said compound by pretending to be a visitor to another resident.
Upon attending the home of my client and in the presence and hearing of her domestic help, Ms Goomatie Ragbir, Ms Gumbs-Sandiford identified herself as a friend of the family who had come out of grave concern for her safety and welfare. To the shock and surprise of my client Ms Gumbs-Sandiford made certain defamatory statements, which were subsequently repeated, to several neighbours and my client’s parents. My client’s domestic helper recognized Ms Gumbs-Sandiford as a journalist since she knew her from an association at another newspaper establishment in South Trinidad where the helper presently works.
Ms Gumbs-Sandiford informed my client that she knew she was the victim of serious domestic violence and abuse and she stated that my client’s husband was in the habit of drinking and beating her. She stated that she knew that the incidents of domestic violence were ongoing and the last incident occurred some two weeks. My client stopped Ms Gumbs-Sandiford from making any further statements, told her that she was misinformed and asked her to leave the premises. My client told Ms Gumbs-Sandiford that she was a strong and independent woman and who was not under any form of oppression or intimidation and that if indeed she was a victim of domestic violence she knew what her rights were and would have most certainly made a formal report to the relevant authorities. My client informed Ms Gumbs-Sandiford she found it offensive, insulting and humiliating for her to make such outrageous allegations at a time when she and her husband recently celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary and had two wonderful children.
Ms Gumbs-Sandiford continued to repeat the allegations and asked my client if she could speak to her in private, a request which my client denied by asking Ms Gumbs-Sandiford to please leave the premises and respect the family’s privacy. Instead of leaving Ms Gumbs-Sandiford persisted in her line of interrogation by constantly repeating the aforesaid allegations. She claimed that she merely wanted to assist my client as her husband was a dangerous man and a concerned relative sent her. My client inquired as to the identity of this alleged concerned relative as she would like to invite them over for lunch to discuss these alleged concerns as she was normally home alone all day.
I am advised that subsequent to the pre-action letter issued on behalf of my client’s husband, by Ms Pamela Elder SC, enquiries have revealed that upon completing her conversation with my client, Ms Gumbs-Sandiford attended the premises of her next door neighbour who shares a joint wall of separation between their townhouses. Ms Gumbs-Sandiford spoke to a one Mr Abdel Mohammed to whom she introduced herself as a police officer who was investigating a report of domestic violence by my client’s husband.
This time Ms Gumbs-Sandiford informed Mr Mohammed that she had information that neighbours in the community had reported hearing loud screams coming from the townhouse of my client on several occasions. Mr Mohammed indicated that he was their closest neighbour as his townhouse was physically joined to theirs. Ms Gumbs-Sandiford proceeded to tell Mr Mohammed that my client was a victim of serious domestic violence and that she was unwilling to stand up for her rights by making a report to the police. Ms Gumbs-Sandiford told Mr Mohammed that my client was breaking the law by not reporting what was happening to her and could be charged by police. Ms Gumbs-Sandiford told Mr Mohammed that my client was no better than a criminal by not reporting what was happening to her.
Mr Mohammed told Ms Gumbs-Sandiford that he had no knowledge of what she was speaking about whereupon Ms Gumbs-Sandiford asked Mr Mohammed what kind of neighbour he was for not caring about the safety of my client. Again Ms Gumbs-Sandiford asked Mr Mohammed if he ever heard screams coming from my client’s premises and he informed her that my client had two young children and that from time to time they would scream and make noise when they were playing but that he had never heard screams from my client herself. Mr Mohammed told Ms Gumbs-Sandiford that he found her allegations to be unbelievable as he knew my client to be a happily married women who was always out and about with her husband and children. He further indicated that my client was a stay at home mom who would have ample opportunity to report such a matter to the police if there was reason to do so. Mr Mohammed became suspicious because of Ms Sandiford persistent repetition of the aforesaid defamatory allegations and her apprehensive and shifty manner. He therefore asked her which police station she was attached to and she stated the San Fernando Police Station. She then quickly said goodbye and left in a black Laurel.
I am further instructed that Ms Gumbs-Sandiford on 4th September 2013 visited the elderly mother and father of my client at their home in Barrackpore. She gained access to their home by falsely representing herself to be a police officer who was investigating a complaint of domestic violence allegedly made by my client. Ms Gumbs-Sandiford entered my client’s parent’s premises in the company of a male companion of African descent whom they assumed to also be a police officer. She confronted the elderly couple by repeatedly saying in an alarming tone “you don’t know what happen to your daughter?” Her statements instilled fear and anxiety in my client’s parents with the result that her mother began to tremble and cry. I am instructed that the male companion of Ms Gumbs-Sandiford had in his possession a recording device which he used to take audio and videograghic images of my client’s parents at particular times throughout the conversation. The recording device was only taken out and activated some time after they entered the premises having already identified herself as a police officer and informed them about the reason for their police investigation.
Ms Gumbs-Sandiford then repeated to my client’s parents the defamatory remarks against my client which she had made to my client on the 3rd September 2013. She
further stated that their daughter was in danger as her husband was “a dangerous man” who was “abusing [their] daughter” and that their daughter’s life was under threat as she could be killed. Ms Gumbs-Sandiford told my client’s parents that their daughter was breaking the law by not reporting what was going on and she could be charged by police.
My client’s parents denied all of the allegations made by Ms Gumbs-Sandiford. My client’s mother repeatedly explained to your journalist that she had visited her daughter and son-in-law at their home the previous day and these allegations were not true. She stated that she was a regular visitor to their home as she is very fond of her grandchildren. It was only when Ms Gumbs-Sandiford was leaving the home of my client’s parents that she truthfully identified herself and informed them that she was in fact a journalist with the Express newspaper.
Your journalist’s conduct in relation to these elderly citizens was reprehensible and unprofessional and brought unnecessary fear and anxiety to these simple and elderly individuals. She induced a distraught and emotional state and then proceeded to exploit same to her advantage.
The course of conduct embarked upon by Ms Gumbs-Sandiford is highly improper and constitutes gross invasion of the privacy of my client and her family. The aforesaid false and malicious allegations made by your journalist against my client are slanderous, in particular, it is defamatory to state that my client is a victim of the crime of domestic (sic) and that she has broken the law by continuously failing to report same.
Your reporter is advised that by falsely impersonating a police officer twice she has contravened Section 62 of the Police Service Act Chap 15:01 which provides that any person who “in any way pretends to be a police officer for any purpose which he would not by law be entitled to do of his own authority, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of thirty thousand dollars and to imprisonment for three years”.
In these circumstances, my client has been legally advised, by Senior Counsel, that she is entitled to bring a claim for inter alia defamation and that there is a realistic prospect of success of such action before the courts.
I wish to further enquire from you whether your journalist was in these circumstances, validly acting upon an assignment duly authorised by the Trinidad Express Newspapers Limited, or whether she was at all material times acting on her own accord. In this regard, I call upon you to provide a response within twenty-four (24) hours of receipt of this letter.
Should your newspaper intend to publish any story relating to the facts stated herein I call upon you to inform the undersigned so that my client can be afforded the opportunity to approach the courts for the relevant relief. Should you fail to do so, my client reserves the right to bring the contents of this letter and the request made herein to the attention of a judge of the High Court.
You are hereby notified that any publication by you of matters relating to these falsities (including the publication of pre-action letters) would result in legal proceedings being instituted against both your newspaper and Ms Gumbs-Sandiford. In the circumstances, I ask you to note that I have my client’s firm instructions to take all such action as may be necessary to protect her good name and to prevent her from being brought into odium and disrepute.
My client is making continuous enquiries of her fellow residents of the gated townhouse compound where she presently resides regarding the visit of Ms Gumbs-Sandiford. My client has not yet been able to speak to all the residents and as such enquiries are continuing. Signed witness statements are being taken from residents who were visited by Ms Gumbs-Sandiford. It would be helpful if she could identify all those residents she visited in the interest of time and expense. I am advised that my client was only aware that Ms Gumbs-Sandiford had visited her next door neighbour, Mr Mohammed, when he paid her a visit this morning to tell her about the visit by Ms Gumbs-Sandiford and her conversation with him.