Court awards $.5m to cop after charges dropped

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Betsy Ann Lambert-Peterson –

A HIGH Court judge has ordered more than $.5 million in compensation for a police officer who was suspended in 2006 after he was charged with kidnapping, assault and larceny, but eventually reinstated when the charges were dropped.

Justice Betsy Ann Lambert-Peterson made the order on January 22, when she held Kernel Dates’ rights were infringed by the failure of the police service to pay his salary and benefits for the duration of his suspension when he was eventually cleared of the charges and reinstated.

Dates, of Pembroke, Tobago, will receive compensatory damages of $231,415. being the arrears of his salary and $24,000 as a special tax-free allowance; $200,000 in damages for distress and inconvenience; vindicatory damages of $200,000; and five per cent interest on the award of compensatory damages from January 18, 2023, when he filed his claim, to January 22, 2024, when she made her orders.

According to Dates’ lawsuit, he became a special reserve police officer on March 4, 2000. On June 28, 2006, he was arrested and charged with three offences and immediately suspended from the police service.

In July 2007, the charges against him were dismissed because of the non-appearance of the police officer who charged him. Dates was not reinstated until 2011. He resumed work as an SRP and was eventually retroactively absorbed into the police as a regular officer.

In 2011, the SRP adjutant wrote to the then-assistant commissioner advising of his reinstatement and for his salary and benefit arrears to be paid for the period he was suspended.

It was not until May 2020 that he was told that his outstanding arrears and back-pay issues had been sent to the police finance branch for assessment and the established practice for the payment of emoluments was confirmed.

On April 12, 2021, his attorneys sent a pre-action protocol letter to find out why he was not being paid his salary and benefits as well as his back pay from his suspension to reinstatement.

Dates was then told he was not entitled to his arrears of back pay and salary because the SRP Act did not provide for such payments to officers who were on suspension because of criminal charges, unlike the police service regulations, which allow this for regular police officers.

Dates was also told he would only be entitled to the salary and allowances from March 6, 2009, when he was retroactively absorbed as a regular officer.

In his lawsuit, his attorneys argued that the police service conceded that the practice of the adjutant was to compensate SRPs who were suspended pending disciplinary or criminal charges once they were absolved, but was insisting he could not benefit from it.

They argued his rights to use and enjoyment of property, protection of the law and equality of treatment were breached, and the judge agreed.

Dates was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Jared Jagroo, Jayanti Lutchmedial and Natasha Bisram.

The State was represented by Tinuke Gibbons-Glen, Aryanta Williams, Svetlana Dass and Abigail Bristo.