Compensation for Rio Claro farmer wrongly charged for stealing dasheen

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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COMPENSATION is expected to be assessed by a master of the High Court after the State failed to defend itself against a claim for malicious prosecution, wrongful arrest, and false imprisonment.

Justice Kevin Ramcharan made the order for judgment in default in favour of Harrynarine Seeraj. The State was also ordered to pay costs and the matter was referred to a master for assessment of damages.

In his claim, Seeraj said someone hired him in October last year to take him to Moruga to collect and transport a quantity of dasheen.

While in Moruga, the other man paid the vendor for the dasheen and they left for Princes Town.

While heading along the Moruga road, Seeraj said, he was stopped by a marked police vehicle.

Two officers, who failed to identify themselves, asked him about the load of dasheen in the tray of his van and asked for a receipt.

Seeraj’s passenger gave the police the receipt he received from the farmer in Moruga. Seeraj was also asked for his receipt and his lawsuit said he told the officers the goods were not his and he had merely been hired to collect and transport the dasheen.

The claim said “wrongfully and without justification and reasonable and probable cause,” Seeraj was detained and ordered to follow the police to the station, after which he was charged with praedial larceny, since he did not produce a receipt for the goods.

The other man was not charged and was released.

Seeraj’s lawsuit says he was put in a cell at the Princes Town police station, where he remained for seven days before he was taken before a magistrate.

He was granted bail and the matter was adjourned.

On October 14, 2020, one of the officers who stopped him provided the court with the receipt given to them by Seeraj’s passenger. The next day, when the matter again came up for hearing, the magistrate dismissed Seeraj, holding that the police had not investigated, pointing out that Seeraj was the driver and a receipt was produced by the other passenger, who was not charged.

The lawsuit contends the police had no reasonable cause to arrest or charge him and the charges were “actuated wrongfully and by malice.”