Police must pay for illegally detaining 3 dump trucks

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

– File photo

A HIGH COURT judge has ordered the State to compensate two business owners from south Trinidad for the unlawful detention of their three dump trucks in 2020 and 2022.

On February 27, Justice Ricky Rahim ordered the State to pay $3.3 million to the business owners, who have asked for their names not to be published for fear they may become the targets of criminal elements because of the court’s order.

Rahim ruled that the police unlawfully detained the dump trucks. His order also included payment for the loss of the value and use of the vehicles calculated on a daily rate.

In their lawsuit, the business owners said the police seized the dump trucks in Wallerfield, Arima, between February 2020 and 2022 and did not release them even after the magistrates court dismissed charges of illegal quarrying.

The trucks were only returned in April 2022.

It had been alleged that the trucks were being used to remove material from state lands without a licence. However, the business owners denied that the trucks were used in illegal quarrying.

In demanding compensation for the continued unlawful detention, their attorneys Gerald Ramdeen and Dayadai Harripaul argued that the police had no justification for continuing to detain the trucks.

After the police seized the trucks, they were kept in an open area at the army base in Camp Cumuto. The business owners’s lawsuit said the value of the vehicles was being depreciated daily because of the way they were kept.

Their lawsuit also contended police standing orders did not permit the police to keep items for any longer than reasonably necessary to complete an investigation, and the police had sufficient evidence that they were the lawful owners of the vehicles.

“There is no general power of the police when they have lawfully seized property which is not the subject of any charge and is clearly shown not to have been stolen, to retain that property as against the person entitled to possession of it against some uncertain future contingency…

“The defendant has a duty to comply with the law and not abuse their powers. The actions of the defendant, its servants and/or agents amounted to a flagrant abuse of police powers,” the lawsuit said.

The State was also ordered to pay the owners’ legal costs.