The police were on Sunday forced to reverse their decision to block station bail for some of the 61 people who were arrested for breaching COVID-19 public health regulations at a bar in Belmont last Friday.
Guardian Media understands that the detainees, including three community leaders from east Port-of-Spain, remained in police custody at various stations across north Trinidad for well over 24 hours before investigators began charging them yesterday afternoon.
Sources said after the individuals were charged their lawyers went to the police stations with justices of the peace for consideration of bail for them, pending their eventual virtual court appearances at a later date. Station bail is usually granted by JPs for minor bailable offences, especially in cases where the accused stand to remain detained for lengthy periods before appearing in court, for example on weekends.
Guardian Media understands that after being blanked, attorneys Wayne Sturge, Alexia Romero, Kirby Joseph and Randall Raphael, who are representing a dozen of the individuals, filed habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the decision to deny the men station bail.
Some of the cases were consolidated but the case for one of the community leaders came up for virtual hearing before the others.
During the hearing before Justice Carol Gobin, the legal team contended that the decision was in breach of the man’s constitutional right to access bail. Gobin eventually ruled in their favour, giving the JPs the green light to start and complete the process from him.
The lawyers then wrote the TTPS explaining the outcome of the case and suggesting that the decision be applied to the others in the interest of avoiding the TTPS incurring additional legal costs. The men, who were represented by the legal team, were later facilitated.
Legal sources said attorneys Lemuel Murphy and Richard Clarke-Willis, who are representing another community leader, who was also recently charged with the offence after being allegedly caught in a casino, filed similar action that came up for hearing late yesterday evening.
According to reports, the group was arrested after police raided a bar at Belle Eau Road in Belmont last Friday.
Under the ongoing public health regulations, which sets the opening hours for some non-essential businesses such as restaurants and bars and precludes gathering in groups of more than 25, a person found in breach faces a maximum penalty of a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison.