Judge calls for legislative reform to speed up trials

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Frank Seepersad. FILE PHOTO –

THE estate of a Rio Claro man who alleged being set up by a police officer, whom the man claimed he embarrassed in a previous incident, has been ordered to pay the State’s costs, after his lawsuit was dismissed in the High Court.

In 2018, Premchan Rampersad pursued a malicious prosecution claim alleging being set up with gun cartridges during a search of his home on December 18, 2014. He claimed he knew the officer who set him up, since sometime before, he was accused of running off while holding the carcass of an armadillo, embarrassing the officer.

Rampersad was charged with an offence but it was later dismissed by a magistrate. After his lawsuit was filed, Rampersad died and his son continued the case, which went to trial on Thursday. Rampersad’s son and common-law wife testified while the officers involved testified for the State.

In dismissing the claim, Justice Frank Seepersad bemoaned delays in the criminal justice system. He called for a critical and comprehensive review of the system since, “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Seepersad pointed to the length of time it took for the State to test the ammunition, allegedly found, which led to the dismissal of the charge against Rampersad.

“There are unjustifiable delays. The events in the instant matter demonstrate that the problems are multi-faceted,” Seepersad said.

He said matters involving firearms, ammunition and narcotics must be dealt with expeditiously because of the unacceptably high levels of crime.

“It is therefore difficult to understand why the court has to wait years for a report to say whether an object is a firearm or ammunition. Society cannot continue to be wedded to outdated, inherited colonial processes.”

Seepersad suggested legislative amendments for testing exhibits by trained officers at police stations.

“Every avenue has to be explored to confront the crisis of crime. In this war, judicial accountability and efficiency are paramount as the need to ensure the police’s court and process division is adequately trained and staffed, and public defenders are available to ensure accused people can avail themselves of legal representation.

“A proactive parliamentary approach is also required.”The State was represented by Kadine Matthew, Natoya Moore and Candice Alexander, while Edwin Roopnarine represented Rampersad.