Privy Council dismisses malicious prosecution case against police

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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THE PRIVY Council has upheld a majority ruling of the Court of Appeal which dismissed a man’s challenge of his unsuccessful malicious prosecution case against the police.

Matadai Roopnarine appealed the majority ruling of Justices of Appeal Charmaine Pemberton and Gillian Lucky on May 21, 2021.

In that appeal, Justice of Appeal Gregory Smith dissented.

The two judges held that the High Court judge, who initially dismissed his malicious prosecution case in 2013, was correct to conclude that Roopnarine did not prove his claim that the police lacked reasonable and probable cause when they arrested and charged him in 2000.

In their ruling, Lords Hodge, Lloyd-Jones, Hamblen, Leggatt and Lady Rose dismissed Roopnarine’s appeal. Their judgment cements what courts say should be necessary to establish a case of malicious prosecution.

In Roopnarine’s case they said he did not reach the first base.

“As both the judge and the majority held, the reason why the appellant failed to prove the absence of reasonable and probable cause was not the weakness of the appellant’s evidence but rather the absence of any evidence from him directed at the key issue of the circumstances in which the prosecution was instituted and the nature of the information on which the prosecutors acted.”

Hamblen, who wrote the decision, said they were satisfied that the High Court was entitled to find that absence of reasonable and probable cause had not been established.

They also said the majority in the Court of Appeal was also justified in upholding and affirming that judgment.

“Since the appellant’s case on malice depended upon an inference being drawn from the absence of reasonable and probable cause, it necessarily follows that malice was not established either, as the Court of Appeal held.”

Hamblen said a decision as to whether a prosecution has been brought without reasonable and probable cause involves a value judgment. It does not simply involve the making of primary findings of fact.

He said the Appeal Court majority did not simply find that the first-instance judge was entitled to reach the conclusion he did; but considered the evidence and came to the same conclusion.

“What matters is not the evidence before the judge of conspiracy but rather the evidence before him that the police had no evidence of conspiracy or put no such evidence before the magistrate.”

Although they dismissed Roopnarine’s appeal, the judges did express sympathy for Roopnarine.

They also expressed concerns about the history of the case.

“Although the proceedings against him were eventually discontinued, he was remanded in custody for seven months in relation to the charges made, he had those serious charges hanging over him for over eight years and then had to await a further eight years for his appeal in these proceedings to be heard.

“In the circumstances, the board’s provisional view is that there is a strong case for the costs of this appeal to be borne by the State in any event.”

Roopnarine was charged in February 2000 with conspiring with others in September 2019 to forge documents for a bail matter for a man charged with drug trafficking offences.

When he appeared in the Scarborough magistrates court, he pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail but he was not able to immediately access it and was eventually released seven months later.

Between 2003 and 2005, he appeared at various hearings of the preliminary inquiry but before it came to an end, the Director of Public Prosecution filed notices of discontinuance in his favour and the charges were dropped.

In May 2011, he filed for malicious prosecution alleging the police concocted evidence against him, failed to properly investigate and attempted to introduce false evidence at the trial.

He also contended that false evidence was given against him at the preliminary inquiry and accused the police of acting recklessly when they arrested and charged him.

In resisting the application, the State pointed to the evidence relied on by the police to show there was reasonable and probable cause to prosecute Roopnarine.

Roopnarine was represented by Anand Ramlogan, Sc, Kate O’Raghallaigh, Adam Riley and Robert Abdool-Mitchell while Robert Strang represented the State.