State withdraws appeal in wrongful arrest case

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams. – File photo

THE State has withdrawn an appeal of a judge’s strong findings against a police officer who “planted evidence” against a Santa Flora man in 2013.

On June 11, attorneys for the Chief State Solicitor’s department of the Attorney General’s office withdrew its appeal of Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams’ ruling in favour of Ross Paul.

On June 3, 2022, Quinlan-Williams ordered the State to compensate Paul $371,621 and $55,500 in costs.

Of that figure, $200,000 was for exemplary damages which is meant to send a message against conduct considered malicious and to act as a deterrent to others committing similar acts.

In her ruling, Quinlan-Williams said there was no dispute that Paul’s arrest was bad.

“This is a case where I am satisfied that the award that the court makes must send a clear message as can be sent to police officers that they cannot plant evidence on citizens…Innocent citizens going about their lawful business.

“It is just so outrageous,” the judge said in her ruling on the evidence, which included an admission that the officer who arrested and assaulted Paul was no longer in the police service as he had been charged with criminal offences.

In her ruling, the judge had ordered attorneys for the State to refer the matter to the Police Commissioner to take appropriate action while commending another officer who testified at the trial for her honesty and forthrightness.

The judge said based on PC Keziah Quash’s evidence, she “was an exemplary officer” and recommended that the policewoman’s personnel file include a record of the court’s commendation.

“In the face of what must have been a very stressful experience for you to have witnessed and be a part of…Sometimes it is much easier for us to follow the crowd and do what is easy.”

In his lawsuit, Paul said he was walking along the Santa Flora main road when he was by an officer whom he knew before.

Paul said he was told, “You lock up this morning.”

He decided to make a report at the police station since it was not the first time he was threatened or harassed by the officer.

As he was making the report, the officer grabbed him by his neck and arrested him. Paul was then cuffed in the face and he called out to PC Quash for assistance.

Paul said he was cuffed and beaten with a baton while his life was threatened. He said the male officer pulled out a small packet of marijuana and tried to put it in his (Paul’s) pocket.

Eventually, he was told by other officers at the station he was free to go. He was also treated at the Siparia district health facility for his injuries.

In a statement, Quash said her former colleague was “smelling strongly of alcohol” and was obscenely loud in the charge room.

She also testified to Paul being assaulted by her former colleague and also when he pulled out the packet of marijuana from his jacket pocket, claiming the drugs were Paul’s.

Paul was represented by attorneys Prakash Maharaj and Shirvan Ramdhanie, while Mary Davis and Dianna Singh represented the State at the trial.