Cop convicted of raping teenager complains about trial attorney at appeal

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo.

A police officer jailed for 18 years for the rape of a teenager with whom he was in a relationship has appealed his 2019 conviction.

Visham Ragoo has faulted the trial judge’s handling of his case by allowing inadmissible evidence. He has also complained about the competence of his trial counsel.

In October 2019, Justice Carla Brown-Antoine sentenced Ragoo for five offences against the teenager, who was two months pregnant when some of the offences occurred.

He was found guilty of grievous sexual assault on the girl on February 4, 2008; common assault on February 4; rape on June 12; grievous sexual assault on June 12; assault occasioning actual bodily harm on or about June 12; and false imprisonment on June 12, 2008. All the offences were committed against the girl in Freeport.

Ragoo, who was a police officer for nine years, was sentenced to a total of 43 years for the crimes. The judge ordered that the sentences should run concurrently.

At the trial in the San Fernando High Court, it was the State’s case that Ragoo had an affair with the teenager in 2005. He was charged on June 15, 2008, when she made a report to the police.

Part of the prosecution’s evidence was an audio recording of the February 4, 2008 grievous sexual assault, in which Ragoo placed his hand in the victim’s private parts while she was pregnant, and the common assault, where a knife and gun were used while she was threatened, which was played to the jury.

The teenager miscarried days after the assault.

Ragoo did not testify at his trial but called his ex-wife, his wife, and two police officers as his witnesses.

At the appeal on Wednesday, Ragoo testified before Justices of Appeal Mark Mohammed, Maria Wilson and Ronnie Boodoosingh, to support his complaint against his trial attorney, Selwyn Ramlal.

Ragoo contends that Ramlal acted contrary to his instructions and was negligent and failed in his duties as his attorney.

He is represented by Senior Counsel Pamela Elder and attorney Russell Warner at the appeal.

He contended he gave his attorney handwritten instructions which detailed his history with the teenager and other prosecution witnesses. His “instructions” also contained his side of the story and his defence, he said. Ragoo maintained he gave the ten-20-page document to Ramlal before the trial began and gave the lawyer others throughout the case.

Questioned by assistant DPP Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, he also said he was “not worried, concerned or disquieted” when he heard the audio recording played for the jury.

He also said he wrote his own caution statement which gave details of his relationship with the teenager; an explanation of what took place on June 12 and 13; and an alibi and denial of sexual misconduct. Ragoo also said the caution statement, which is usually given by a suspect to police, also included his claim of self-defence, as the victim had attacked him at his home.

Medical evidence was advanced at the trial of the girl having bruises on her face.

He denied suggestions by Dougdeen-Jaglal that he did not give evidence because he did not want the jury to hear his voice so that it could be compared to the voice in the audio recording, insisting he never gave his attorney instructions that the voice on the recording was not his. He also said he played an active role at the trial, taking his own notes when he realised his attorney was not doing so.

In his testimony before the Appeal Court judges, Ramlal also denied suggestions by Elder that he prevented his client from testifying.

About the voice recording, Ramlal said at first Ragoo claimed the voice was not his and was a fabrication, alleging the girl’s mother, with whom he also allegedly had sexual relations, had manipulated his voice. Ramlal said when he told his client his opinion that the voice was his, Ragoo agreed.

Ramlal said Ragoo was a “most challenging” client. He also insisted Ragoo did not present him with handwritten instructions and maintained he never tried to deceive the court at any time at the trial.

Ramlal denied suggestions he did not properly advise his client on the implications of his ex-wife’s testimony, which was used by the State to suggest a propensity for violent behaviour, since she claimed she had filed a police report against him, later saying she only did so because of a custody issue between them.

The ex-wife’s testimony was used as bad-character evidence against Ragoo.

Elder said the ex-wife’s statements were “hearsay” and should not have been allowed by the judge. She also contended the route to the admission of the evidence was flawed when the prosecution was allowed to question her on it.

There are several other arguments relating to the admission of bad-character evidence which Elder will complete when the hearing of the appeal resumes on Thursday.