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Judge awards accused $.5m

Picked out in flawed ID parade 13 years ago...

By Nikita Braxton-Benjamin nikita.braxton@trinidadexpress.com

A man who spent more than three years in jail as an accused kidnapper after being pointed out in a flawed identification parade at the Marabella Police Station was yesterday awarded more than half a million dollars by the High Court.

In delivering his ruling, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh noted the trial dealing with the malicious prosecution claim of labourer Mark Blake took all of 30 minutes since the State did not cross-examine him and did not put in any evidence.

The $567,000 award is one of the highest ever made for malicious prosecution lawsuits in Trinidad and Tobago.

Blake will have to wait for some time before he can claim his money.

He is in prison custody, charged with the March 27, 2005, murder of Larry Phillips and the attempted murder of Darion Picton at an apartment in Glen Road, Scarborough, Tobago.

Blake was represented by attorney Kevin Ratiram and the State by attorneys Neal Byam and Kerri-Ann Olliverie.

Blake and his brother Sheldon Blake were arrested on February 16, 1999, in connection with a kidnapping, robbery and stabbing earlier that day.

They were taken to the Marabella Police Station, and three days later, placed on separate identification parades.

Sheldon Blake's parade took place first.

However, police officers used the same eight men in the line-up when Mark Blake's identification parade was held.

The alleged victim identified Sheldon Blake in the first line-up and Mark Blake in the second line-up.

As a result, the brothers were charged by Corporal Glen Alpheus with kidnapping, robbery and wounding with intent.

Mark Blake was arrested by warrant on June 18, 2001, and granted bail of $60,000. However, no one took his bail, and on June 28, 2002, he was committed to stand trial on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder.

Blake remained in prison custody until December 23, 2004, when he was released on bail.

When the matter came up for trial six years later on January 14, 2008, the State offered no evidence against Blake, with the prosecutor admitting the same men were used on both identification parades, and as a result, the identification parade was defective.

Blake was discharged on both offences after the State offered no other evidence.

Blake, of Sangre Grande, filed a lawsuit in 2010.

The State submitted written submissions that even with a flawed identification parade, the State still had a case fit to be tried. However this was rejected by Boodoosingh, who commented "there can be no basis, other than speculation, on which the court could conclude that there was a case fit to be tried".

Ratiram submitted that Blake be awarded between $1.3 million and $1.5 million since Blake had three serious charges pending for seven years, and the State could have discontinued the matters much earlier.

Boodoosingh said the State was given time to reply to Ratiram's submissions but never did, nor did the State offer any evidence why the police officer laid the charge against Blake.

Boodoosingh made an award of $450,000, at six per cent interest, and fixed costs at $50,000.

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