The State has been ordered to pay a little over $300,000 in compensation to a 27-year-old man from Sangre Grande, who was doused with hot water and pepper sauce during an interrogation by police in 2015.
Ralph Andre Lewis, of Coronation Street, Sangre Grande, filed his assault and battery lawsuit against the State in 2017 and his lawyers Lemuel Murphy and Alexia Romero initially obtained a default judgment after the Office of the Attorney General missed the deadline to file its defence.
The AG’s Office then made a successful application before Justice Mira Dean-Armourer for the default judgement to be set aside and the time extended for it to file its defence.
However, before the new deadline elapsed, the AG’s Office conceded liability.
As the parties could not come to compromise on the quantum of damages owed to Lewis, the issue was referred to High Court Master Sherlanne Pierre for an assessment.
The assessment was completed on May 26, with Pierre ordering $210,000 in general and aggravated damages and $50,000 in exemplary damages. The State was also ordered to pay the $41,000 in legal fees Lewis incurred in pursuing the lawsuit.
In his court filings, which were obtained by Guardian Media, Lewis claimed that on February 24, 2015, he went to the Sangre Grande Police Station as he had heard that officers wanted to question him over several housebreakings in the district.
Lewis was detained for 48 hours before he began to be interrogated.
Lewis’ lawyers claimed that the officers demanded that he confessed to the crime and beat him with a PVC pipe.
When he repeatedly refused they poured three cups of boiling water down his pants on unto his groin area.
“I was in tremendous pain and I was feeling unconscious, as if I was going in and out of consciousness,” Lewis said, in his witness statement.
The officers then rubbed and applied pepper sauce to the burns he suffered on his penis and surrounding areas. The officers then took photographs of Lewis.
“I felt disgraced, embarrassed, and humiliated,” Lewis said.
Lewis was then taken to the Sangre Grande District Hospital for treatment. He was released from police custody after being discharged.
After the incident, 12 police officers, who were allegedly involved, were charged with misbehaviour in public office, perverting the course of justice, and for failing to act after receiving information. The charges against ten of the officers were dismissed in December, last year, during the police officers’ preliminary inquiry before Magistrate Brambhanan Dubay. One officer was committed to stand trial.
Contacted yesterday, Lewis, who is currently on remand after being charged over a separate incident, said he was pleased with the outcome.
“I feel good but it could be more,” Lewis said, as he referred to the quantum he was awarded.