A CUNUPIA taxi driver has been awarded over $280,000 in compensation after a High Court judge upheld the challenge of his arrest and prosecution of two charges of drug trafficking and importing marijuana in 2012.
Kurt Pascall was arrested on March 9, 2012, at Piarco Airport when he went to pick up his Jamaican girlfriend, who alleged the marijuana found in her suitcase belonged to him.
Despite proclaiming his innocence to police and customs officers, he was charged and spent 40 days in prison before he could access bail.
The charges against him were eventually dropped when the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the case at the Arima Magistrates Court almost a year later.
After a trial before Justice Ricky Rahim on Tuesday, the judge held the police and the Customs and Excise Division had no basis for charging Pascall and as a result, the court could infer malice on the part of the officers.
He also ordered the State to compensate him with $20,000 for his unlawful detention and $240,000 for malicious prosecution, with an uplift for aggravated damages, with interest of 2.5 per cent from the date he filed his claim, in April 2016, to the date of the court’s decision. The judge also ordered the State to pay Pascall’s legal costs.
Pascall was represented by attorney Tim Charriandy. Attorney Kendra Mark appeared for the Attorney General.
In his lawsuit, Pascall said he was arrested while waiting to pick up his then-girlfriend, who had visited him before, at the airport.
He said the officers insisted that they were transporting drugs, although he denied knowing she had marijuana in her suitcase.
In its defence, the State alleged after the woman collected her luggage, two packages of marijuana were found in the lining of the bottom of the suitcase while a customs guard was examining it. The marijuana weighed 1,927 grammes.
The woman claimed the suitcase did not belong to her and said her friend, Pascall, was picking her up from the airport and had arranged for her to bring a suitcase from someone in Jamaica to Trinidad.
She also pointed out Pascall to the customs officer who eventually charged him.
The police were then contacted and Pascall’s car was searched, as well as his cousin’s home. Nothing illegal was found.
Three days after he was arrested, Pascall was taken to the Arima magistrates’ court on the two charges and pleaded not guilty. He was initially denied bail, but a month later, was granted bail with a surety of $150,000.
In his lawsuit, Pascall complained of the conditions of the cell at the police station and the prison. He also said his arrest and imprisonment caused him severe mental anguish. his character and reputation were tarnished and impugned and his friends, neighbours and family shunned him because of it.