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The State is set to pay compensation to a truck driver from Rio Claro, who was wrongfully arrested and charged for praedial larceny after he was caught transporting a load of ground provision last year.

In March, Harrynarine Seeraj filed a malicious prosecution, wrongful arrest, and false imprisonment lawsuit against the State over the incident.

Earlier this month, High Court Judge Kevin Ramcharan granted Seeraj a default judgment after the Office of the Attorney General failed to file a defence to the lawsuit within the stipulated time.

Justice Ramcharan did not immediately assess the compensation for Seeraj, instead referring the issue to a High Court Master.

According to his court filings, obtained by Guardian Media, the incident occurred on October 10 last year, as Seeraj and a man, who hired him, were driving from Moruga after purchasing 6,000 lbs of dasheen valued at $24,000.

The duo was stopped by police officers, who requested a receipt for purchase of the goods.

Although Seeraj’s customer provided a receipt from the farmer, who he had purchased the dasheen from, both men were arrested.

The customer was eventually released, but Seeraj was charged under section 7 (1) of the Praedial Larceny Prevention Act.

Under the legislation, the police are empowered to stop and search persons found transporting produce or livestock and request proof of purchase or a farmer’s registration card.

The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine between $7,500 and $30,000 or up to four years imprisonment.

After being charged Seeraj was detained at the Moruga Police Station for two days before he was taken to the Princes Town Magistrates’ Court to answer the charge.

Seeraj was granted bail on his first court appearance and the charge was dismissed by a magistrate, later that week, after the police officers, who charged Seeraj, presented the receipt from Seeraj’s customer.

In the lawsuit, Seeraj’s lawyers Om Lalla and Dereck Balliram claimed that the officers did not have reasonable or probable cause to suspect that Seeraj had committed the offence.

“The police officers’ dominant purpose was founded on an illegitimate or oblique motive having been provided with a receipt for the goods, and the claimant as driver having given a satisfactory account,’’ Seeraj’s lawyers said.

Through the lawsuit, Seeraj is seeking compensation for his malicious prosecution inclusive of $28,000 in special damages for loss of use of his vehicle during the period of his detention.

— Derek Achong