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HALL OF JUSTICE

Derek Achong

A good samaritan, who was beaten and falsely charged by a group of police officers after he strongly chastised them for failing to assist him in helping a woman who collapsed along Independence Square in Port-of-Spain, is set to receive compensation from the State.

In a recent 17-page judgement, High Court Judge David Harris upheld a lawsuit in which Wayne Roberts claimed that he was assaulted and maliciously prosecuted by the officers over the incident, which occurred in July 2010.

According to the evidence in the case, Roberts, a former Telecommunications Services of T&T (TSTT) supervisor, was liming at the location when he saw that the woman fainted on the sidewalk.

Roberts rendered assistance and contacted the Emergency Health Services (EHS).

While waiting on an ambulance to arrive, he saw two female police officers getting into a marked vehicle and attempted to stop them to assist.

Roberts claimed that he said: “I just made a report. Look the lady faint. That is why the public don’t respect all yuh. All yuh getting on like imps.”

Roberts alleged that he returned to check on the woman and was struck in the back of his head with a baton.

He claimed that the blow came from the officers’ male colleagues, who then proceeded to beat him before taking him to the police station where he was charged with resisting arrest and using obscene and insulting language to the police officers.

He alleged that any injuries sustained by the officers were as a result of him defending himself.

In their evidence, the officers disputed Roberts’ allegations as they claimed that he also used a series of obscenities during his hostile discourse with then.

They also contended that he attacked them after they cautioned him over his offensive language.

In his judgement, Harris stated that he believed Roberts’ version of the events over the police officers as they gave inconsistent statements over Roberts’ alleged utterances and mainly because there was no mention of the statements in the station diary records related to his arrest.

“Given the nature of the charges brought, the public spectacle that the altercation had become, the injuries that both officers sustained, and the severe injury the claimant sustained, such that the Central Police Station had refused the admittance of the claimant when initially brought to the station, unless the claimant had been taken for medical treatment, then one would have expected that the core allegations and factual moorings for the initial arrest and charge would have found itself in the official station diary. It did not,” Harris said.

Harris also noted that the word “imps” admitted by Roberts could not justify the charges for obscene and insulting language in the circumstances.

“The use of that word in the appropriate circumstances and context could amount to insulting language and possibly annoy members of the public. Not in this case,” Harris said, as he noted that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had discontinued the charges against Roberts.

“Even if the arrest was justified (and the court does not agree that it was) then on the evidence the police surely used excessive force in executing it and therefore, would be liable for assault and battery at the very least,” Harris added.

While Harris upheld Roberts’ claim in relation to those charges, he dismissed his complaint on the resisting arrest charge as he noted that the officer, who laid that charge, did not act with any malice.

He also noted that he did not condone Roberts’ behaviour, as “somewhat inappropriate in a civilised law-abiding society.

Although Harris upheld most aspects of Roberts’ claim, he referred the assessment of compensation to a High Court Master.

Roberts was represented by Keith Scotland and Kathy-Ann Mottley, while Zelica Haynes-Soo Hon and Nariob Smart represented the State.