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$100,000 for wrongfully arrested mechanic

By Keino Swamber keino.swamber@trinidadexpress.com

A High Court Judge has ordered the State to pay more than $100,000 to a mechanic who was wrongfully arrested and detained on suspicion of having stolen car parts in his possession.

Earl Peters was at his home on November 7, 2007 when, at around 2 p.m., he heard someone shouting: "Who own this f...ing garage ?"

Emerging from his home, Peters saw five vehicles with approximately 15 police officers in his yard. He told the police officers that he was the owner of the garage and asked the police officers what they were searching for. Peters was told that a search was being carried out for stolen car parts. Several requests for a search warrant to be produced fell on deaf ears.

The police seized four Corolla doors, one Corolla bonnet, one Corolla trunk lid, three Corolla car seats, four alloy rims with tyres, one instrument panel, two rear Corolla lights, two Corolla wing mirrors and one Corolla brain box.

Peters was told that he would be arrested for larceny of the car parts. He tried to explain to the police officers that the parts belonged to a customer who purchased them and left them for him to change on the customer's vehicle. The officers were also told that the bill for the car parts was in the glove compartment of the customer's car and that the police officers could contact the customer to verify what was being said.

Peters was ignored, arrested, handcuffed, placed in a police vehicle and taken to the West End Police Station where he was placed in a room for approximately 15 minutes. He was then taken to the Four Roads Police Station and then to the Morvant Police Station where he was placed in a cell.

A formal charge of possession of parts believed to be stolen was laid against Peters at around 9 p.m. on November 7, 2007. Peters was kept at the Morvant Police Station until approximately 10.30 a.m. on November 8, 2007 when he was taken to the Port of Spain Magistrates Court.

The matter was stood down until the evening by Magistrate Michelle Maharajh-Brown who explained to Peters that the charge brought against him was incorrect. Maharajh-Brown adjourned the matter to the following day as the officer who laid the charge was not present in court. This resulted in Peters being taken to the Remand Yard Prison at Frederick Street in Port of Spain where he was detained for approximately five nights before being released on bail on November 13, 2007.

On November 26, 2007 the matter was heard before Maharajh-Brown who upheld a no-case submission by Peters' attorney and ordered that the seized be returned to Peters.

Peters, 51, sued the State claiming malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and trespass to land. He was represented by attorneys Abdel Mohammed and Shabaana Mohammed before Justice Judith Jones in the Port of Spain High Court.

The police officers denied ever using obscene language when they entered Peters' yard. They admitted that the items were seized but contended that Peters could not give a proper account for the car parts.

For the malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and aggravated damages, Peters was awarded $100,000 plus six per cent interest from October 31, 2011 - the date of service. The State has also been ordered to pay $20,000 plus six per cent interest from the date of Peters' arrest.

Legal costs in the sum of $28,837.50 cents is also to be paid by the State.

Attorney Safraz Alsaran appeared on behalf of the State.

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