A High Court Judge has ordered $150,000 in compensation for a former prisoner, who claimed that a prison officer assisted and allowed a group of prisoners to assault him after he refused to smuggle contraband into the prison for them.
Delivering an oral judgment at the end of a virtual trial on Monday, Justice Frank Seepersad ordered the compensation for Shawn Castle after upholding his assault and battery case against the State.
According to the evidence presented during the trial, the incident occurred on June 8, 2019, while Castle was an inmate at the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) in Arouca.
Castle claimed that prison officer Leon Garcia opened his cell, removed his two Venezuelan cellmates and allowed a group of prisoners from another cellblock to enter the cell to speak with him.
He claimed that the prisoners beat him after he refused to collect contraband items for them while working at the Prison Sports Club and smuggle it into the prison.
He claimed that after the beating, his cellmates were returned to the cell and he was not taken for medical treatment until two days later.
While testifying from his lawyers’ office on Monday, Castle admitted that he waited two days before reporting the incident to a prison officer he trusted.
“I was terrified that they might come back…I thought I was going to die,” Castle said.
In his testimony, Garcia denied any wrongdoing and claimed that he only allowed a prisoner to walk along the corridor to Castle’s cell to return a book.
“There was an impartial investigation and I was cleared,” Garcia said.
In his judgment, Seepersad ruled that he believed Castle’s version of the event over Garcia’s as there were no material contradictions in his (Castle) claims.
“The fact is he was injured and I do not think he was visited by some spirit so as to occasion these injuries,” Seepersad said.
While Seepersad acknowledged that Dr Jamal Mohammed, who is assigned to the prison and examined Castle, testified that he only had minor abrasions to his body including on his shin, Seepersad noted that the injuries were serious enough for Castle to be prescribed medication for two weeks.
Seepersad said it was plausible for Castle to wait to make the report to a prison officer he trusted based on the nature of the allegations and what transpired before.
Seepersad ordered $75,000 in general damages for assault and battery and an additional $75,000 in exemplary damages to demonstrate the court’s condemnation of Garcia’s conduct in the case.