Judge alarmed by soldier, policeman’s conduct

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Frank Seepersad. –

A HIGH COURT judge has admitted to being “disturbed” by the behavior of two members of the protective services as he threw out a claim for damages brought by a soldier who was arrested and spent the night in a jail cell on a traffic offence in 2017.

In delivering an oral ruling after a short virtual trial on Tuesday, Justice Frank Seepersad dismissed the malicious prosecution, wrongful arrest, assault and beating and false imprisonment claim of Cpl Darren Cummings who sued the State and PC Keelon Davidson, the officer who arrested and charged him.

Seepersad said the evidence from both men troubled him as he described their conduct as “disturbing” particularly as it related to their assignments as officers of the protective services.

At the time of the incident on September 19, 2017, in Cane Farm, Arouca, Cummings was part of a special unit of the army providing tactical support and personal protection to the Chief Justice, while Davidson is currently based at the Prime Minister’s residence as an officer of the Guard and Emergency Branch of the police service.

Cummings was accused of blowing cigarette smoke in the face of Davidson and the other officers who stopped him for overtaking a stationary line of cars on the Cane Farm main road driving in a dangerous manner. He was also charged with disorderly behaviour and resisting arrest.

A little over a year after the incident, the charges against him were dismissed by a magistrate in the Arima court after Davidson appeared in court on only one occasion to prosecute the case.

In evidence on Tuesday, he said he elected not to attend court because he feared he would be victimised since Cummings’ father, who visited the Arouca police station when his son was in custody, allegedly threatened that a relative who was a senior police officer “would deal with this” and was in a position to hire and fire officers in the service.

“I felt if I had gone through the matter I would have been victimised,” Davidson admitted in evidence.

Seepersad said there were aspects of the officers’ conduct which reflected poorly on both the Defence Force and the police service, and demonstrated there was a lack of proper vetting and screening of officers who were assigned to protect high office holders.

He said the accusation that Cummings blew smoke in the police’s faces showed a complete lack of civility on his part and temperament not consistent with the discipline one expected of an army officer.

“It is, therefore, quite alarming that someone who displayed that type of behaviour was assigned to provide security for the third highest office holder in the country – the Chief Justice.

“It is equally disturbing the proclamation of PC Davidson that he elected not to attend a court matter where he was a complainant because he was fearful of victimisation. Attendance in court by complainant is not voluntary, but mandatory, and is an important discharge of an officer’s oath and obligation.

“It is unfathomable that an officer can elect not to attend court.”

Seepersad said the job of the police always carried the risk of personal harm, but an officer could not make the call on his own to not to prosecute a case.

“If he is so inclined to succumb to fear, then it is completely unacceptable that someone with that predisposition would be assigned to the residence of the prime minister,” Seepersad said, adding, with some measure of alarm, “God forbid something was to happen that may lead him to respond in that manner.

“It is shocking to this court that an officer can feel comfortable to make such a declaration,” the judge said.

He has ordered that a copy of Tuesday’s transcript be sent to the office of the Police Commissioner since “quite frankly if the service has this type of cowardice in its ranks, it must be addressed.

“The election not to attend court is a serious indictment on the administration of justice that should also be addressed,” he added.

In dismissing Cummings’ claim, the soldier was ordered to pay $14,000 to cover the State’s costs of defending the matter.

The State was represented by attorney Sanjiv Sookoo while attorney Lyndon Leu represented Cummings.