State to compensate man arrested during protest

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Margaret Mohammed. –

THE STATE is liable to pay damages to a La Romaine man who was arrested by an estate constable while protesting in the carpark of a popular fast-food chain in 2020.

A High Court judge gave him permission to enter judgment in default against the State.

Justice Margaret Mohammed also ordered the State to pay Darlington Francois’ costs and ordered that damages should be assessed by a Master of the High Court when she dismissed an application for Francois’ lawsuit to be thrown out.

Francois is represented by attorney Edwin Roopnarine.

The State had contended it was wrong for Francois to sue the Attorney General, since the estate constable who arrested him was not an employee, servant, or agent of the State, as he was not employed with a corporate body, nor was he a member of the police service or a special reserve officer.

In opposition, Francois filed an affidavit contending he was maliciously prosecuted, as police detained him for five hours at a station, charged him, conducted no investigation and took no statement, but prosecuted him at the magistrates’ court.

After his arrest, Francois appeared in court virtually three times after he was charged with using obscene language and resisting arrest. At his last appearance on January 28, 2021, the matter against him was dismissed.

He then sued for wrongful arrest, assault and battery, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.

In dismissing the State’s application and ordering damages to be assessed by a master, Mohammed said she was of the opinion the AG had a case to answer, as she was satisfied that although the estate constable was not employed by the State, Francois was detained at a police station and was charged and prosecuted by the police.

After she granted judgment in default, the State did not seek permission to defend the claim.

In his lawsuit, Francois said he and his family were protesting at the carpark against their unlawful and illegal removal from their land, which is next to the fast-food chain’s carpark. He claimed his family had lived there since 1978/1980 and the carpark was an access point to his home.