(Part I appeared last Sunday)
President of the Police Social and Welfare Association Insp Anand Ramesar is calling on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to launch an enquiry, following recent statements by a High Court master.
Ramesar, in an interview with the Sunday Express yesterday afternoon, said the statements uttered by Master Patricia Sobion-Awai during a civil hearing on February 17, 2014 are cause for concern.
Last week, the Sunday Express highlighted the 24-page written ruling
of Sobion-Awai, in which she presided over an assessment matter involving prison inmate Jamal Sambury.
Evidence produced by the State showed several segments of Sambury’s statement mirrored that of a past successful claimant, Jamal Fortune.
Following the disclosure in court, Sobion-Awai called for an investiga-
tion to be launched into the circum-
stances surrounding how Sambury was able to replicate large segments of statements of successful litigants who won their matters before the High Court.
According to Ramesar, if the statements were copied then, “these situations are unfortunate and have done a great disservice to hard-working police officers and, in many instances, have left great distaste”.
He said when such assault and battery matters are called before the courts, the claims made by the individuals in custody injure the integrity and professional character of many hard-working police officers.
“The circumstances as revealed are sufficiently important and connected to an organisation whose
integrity must be protected.”
Ramesar said it is in this context, the association is calling on Persad-Bissessar, in her capacity as head of the National Security Council, “to call an immediate enquiry into these matters, with a view to identify and criminally treat with any perpetrator of this gross misconduct”.
Also speaking with the Sunday Express, on condition of anonymity, was a former prison commissioner, who said: “The statements of many inmates were grossly exaggerated and painted my then officers in a negative light.”
The former commissioner said the
circumstances outlined in several affi-
davits tendered to the courts on behalf of inmates “were starkly different from my officers’ recount”.
“I fully support the master’s call for an investigation,” he said.
Efforts to contact president of the Prison Association Cheron Richards were unsuccessful as calls to his cell-phone went unanswered. Messages left were not returned.
Within the last ten years, over $10 million in
compensation was paid to prison inmates—both on Death Row and Re-
mand Yard—and members of the public, the Sunday Express was told.
The damages, tallied with other costs, resulted from wrongful arrests, assault and battery, unlawful detention, malicious prosecution and a series of other infractions.
At the civil hearings, both police and prison officers were implicated.
According to court documents, on October 8, 2010, Sambury was at a holding cell in the Princes Town Magistrates’ Court when he was assaulted by police officers.
Sambury, through his attorney, Gerald Ramdeen, subsequently sued the Office of the Attorney General for
damages, following injuries he sustained during the assault by the officers.
By consent (the State accepted liability), judgment on liability was entered against the office of the AG, with damages to be assessed.
Signed statements were tendered by Sambury, and the State applied to
the master to have the entire claim struck out as it viewed the compensa-
tion claim as an abuse of process. The State contended several discrepancies came to its attention, including what
it contended was the copying of previ-
ously successful claimant’s statements.
Sobion-Awai did not strike out Sambury’s application, however, she ruled Sambury pay the State’s costs, totalling $15,000.
Evidence produced by the State showed several segments of Sambu-
ry’s statement mirrored that of a past successful claimant—Jamal Fortune.
Sunday Express investigations have shown inmates Rodney Samaroo, Jamal Fortune, Kernell Sealy and Sambury all had similarly worded statements, despite their incidents occurring years apart and involving different prison and police officers.
The statements have helped Sealy to be awarded $120,000; Samaroo, $90,000; and Fortune, $165,142.
The State then appealed the master’s refusal to strike out Sambury’s application while Ramdeen cross-appealed on the issue of payment of costs.
The Court of Appeal dismissed both appeals and agreed with the master’s decision on both issues.
The appeal panel also ruled while Sambury had clearly committed an abuse of process of the court, the assessment of damages could still be carried out fairly.
This assessment will take place on May 21, in the Port of Spain High Court, before the master.
In delivering a 24-page ruling last month, Master Sobion-Awai said: “In this case, I found the claimant (Sambury) was guilty of abuse of the process of the court, in so far as he had copied extensively from the witness statement of another litigant.”
“Apart from the sheer volume of the material that is common to both witness statements, when one analyses it quantitatively, it was clear that this was not mere coincidence. There was a quite deliberate exercise of ‘cut and paste’ undertaken to create the claimant’s witness statement from the earlier statement,” the master stated.
Sobion-Awai further said: “To my mind, it was implausible that two persons could experience separate events involving different persons in such an identical manner. Moreover, when one looked at the shared grammatical errors, phrasing and sequence of events, the similarities were so startling that the only reasonable conclusion was that the claimant copied and presented as his own sizable portions of the witness statement of Jamal Fortune.”