The state now has to pay damages to a suspended policeman after he was falsely imprisoned for four days following his arrest last year.
While Inspector Rajesh Gokool was subsequently charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, Justice Devindra Rampersad ruled that his detention for four of the seven days he was in custody was unlawful.
Gokool, through his attorney Kevin Ratiram, sued the Attorney General for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment last August.
In the court documents, Gokool said around 4 am on March 2nd, 2020, he and his family were awoken when a party of officers, including Ag Cpl Marcano of the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB), came to his La Romaine home. Marcano informed Gokool he was investigating the disappearance of a DVR that had been seized from the premises of Mustapha Khan. The officer further stated that it was alleged that Gokool had ordered the DVD’s removal with intent to conceal evidence and that he later submitted a wrong DVR to the Cyber Crime Unit.
Gokool claimed he was arrested in front of his family, including his four-year-old daughter, and his neighbours. Gokool, according to the court documents, was taken to the Maloney Police Station and placed in a cell even though he was charged with anything. He started having breathing difficulty and complained to officers on duty. Following this, he was taken to the Pinto Police Post, where he was placed in a room. The following day around 9:30 am, Marcano and Cpl Bissessar from the PSB arrived at the post and interviewed Gokool until 12 pm. Around 8 am on March 4, 2020, Cpl Bissessar told him that he was being further detained. Gokool asked to be released pending further investigations, but he refused and left.
On March 5, 2020, Gokool was informed that he would be placed on an identification parade. Around 5:30 am on March 6, 2020, Gokool was taken to the La Horquetta Police Station and placed in an enclosed room. Later that morning, he asked an officer about the arrangements for his identification parade, and he was told that it would take place at 5 pm. At 6.30 pm, Ag Inspector Joseph informed Gokool that he had been appointed as the identification parade officer, but the parade did not take place. The next day, March 7, Gokool was taken to Trincity Mall, where a Group Identification was done in the food court. Gokool was taken back to the La Horquetta Police Station and moved to the Besson Street Police Station that night.
Around 3:00 pm on March 9, Gokool began experiencing shortness of breath, numbness in his legs and chest pains. He was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital via ambulance. He was examined by a doctor who found that he was suffering from anxiety. Gokool was taken back to the station and later that night his wife applied for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.
Following his appearance before Justice Margaret Mohammed at the Hall of Justice on March 9, 2020, the judge ordered that the Commissioner of Police release him by 7 pm if he was not charged. Around 6:20 pm, he was released on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Gokool claimed he suffered extreme trauma, distress, humiliation and embarrassment due to his arrest and detention. During his time in custody, he claimed he suffered a loss of appetite, had great difficulty sleeping, and often experienced nightmares.
Gokool was re-arrested and charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice in June 2020 and that matter is still pending.
Gokool’s attorney made an application to strike out the state’s defence on the basis that it disclosed no grounds for defending the claim, and in particular, it did not justify the length of Gokool’s detention. Ratiram also argued that the ID parade was not necessary but submitted that if the court found the parade was necessary, the police should have completed interviewing Gokool and the ID parade held, no later than the morning of March 4.
In his ruling, the judge agreed with Ratiram’s submission that the defence did not justify the length of Gokool’s detention, but he found that the ID parade was necessary. However, the judge ruled that the police should have placed Gokool on the parade no later than the evening of March 5, adding that the delay in conducting the ID Parade was unreasonable.
Rampersad ruled that Gokool’s detention from March 5 to March 9 was unlawful and ordered that the Defence in respect of that period be struck out.
The matter was adjourned to February 18, 2022, for the assessment of damages.
Ratiram subsequently sought leave to withdraw the claim for wrongful arrest, and false imprisonment for the period March 2 to 4.30 pm on March 5th, 2020.
The State was represented by Ebo Jones, and Ryan Grant.