State to compensate Inshan Ishmael for bad gun case, charges

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Inshan Ishmael.

A HIGH COURT judge has found the police acted maliciously and without cause when they arrested and laid charges against businessman and broadcaster Inshan Ishmael in 2017.

After a brief virtual trial on Thursday, Justice Frank Seepersad ruled in favour of Ishmael and ordered compensation for malicious prosecution, unlawful detention, and wrongful arrest.

He will hear submissions on the amount of the compensation next Tuesday.

Ishmael’s claim was undefended by the Attorney General, although the State was served with it in November 2021.

Ishmael subsequently filed an application for judgment by default. On Thursday, the State applied for relief from sanctions and to extend the time to allow it to file a defence, but the judge denied this, saying no good reason had been given for him to exercise his discretion to allow it.

State attorney Maria Belmar-Williams said an administrative mishap had prevented the State from filing a defence, but the judge said that was of no concern to the court, since it had been served in November, although it did not receive service of the default judgment application. He said the administrative difficulties faced by the State’s legal department must be addressed internally and cannot be used to “slow the wheels of justice.”

Seepersad said he recognised the department was understaffed and overworked, but unless the problems are remedied, the “administrative difficulty” in which it found itself in this case, will continue.

Ishmael was charged with possession of a firearm to endanger life, possession of ammunition to endanger life and common assault in October 2017, arising out of an alleged incident on April 2, at the ASJA compound at Caroni Savannah Road, Charlieville.

It was alleged that Ishmael, of 61 Bamboo Main Road, Bamboo No 2, who was in a grey Range Rover, drove up to a man and threatened him with a gun.

Ishmael was freed of the charges in July 2020, after a Chaguanas magistrate upheld a no-case submission by his attorneys.

Seepersad said, from the evidence, there was no basis to have arrested Ishmael at Barakah Grounds, where he runs a food establishment and detained him on October 12, 2017. Initially, after spending a night at the station, Ishmael was released with no charges,

However, on October 29, he was told there were three warrants for his arrest. He surrendered to police on October 31.

When he did, he said the police subjected him to abusive behaviour before he was charged for the matters allegedly arising from the incident months earlier.

The judge said there was no reasonable cause to lay the charges, since there was evidence of conflicting reports on what took place at the ASJA compound, and it was also difficult to understand how Ishmael was charged with possession of a gun, also without evidence.

More alarming, he said, was that the common assault charge was laid outside the six-month limitation period for laying of a summary charge.

“Yet they still charged him.”

Seepersad also said, based on the evidence of Ishmael’s account of what took place between April and October, as well as his interactions with the police on previous occasions, there was also evidence to infer malice.

Ishmael was represented by attorneys Arden Williams and Shelly Ann Daniel.