(Trinidad Guardian) The State has been ordered to pay over $280,000 in compensation to a woman and her two teenage sons who were wrongfully detained by police during a routine traffic stop.
Delivering an oral decision in the family’s case on Thursday, Master Sherlanne Pierre ordered the compensation for three family members from Barrackpore, who can not be identified to protect the identities of the children, who are still minors.
According to the evidence in the case, the family was stopped by police officers while driving near their home on January 26, 2013.
One police officers reportedly asked the woman why she was not wearing her seatbelt and she claimed that she could not because she had recently had an operation to remove her appendix and a cyst.
Not pleased by her response, the officer allegedly asked the family to exit the vehicle. The woman claimed that the officer cursed her, pushed her against the car and threatened to charge her with resisting arrest and using obscene language.
“When the officer threatened to charge me I was very frightened because I did nothing wrong and I have never been charged for anything in my life,” she said.
The woman’s sons attempted to call their father with a cellphone but the officer reportedly took it away and threw it on the ground.
She was taken to the Barrackpore Police Station and was handcuffed to a cell gate as there were no facilities for female prisoners there. Her sons, who were eight and 10 at the time, were forced to sit next to her for several hours before her husband came to the station.
“I tried to console them as best as I can and assure them that everything was going to be okay even though I was sure of what was going to happen next,” she said.
The woman was eventually transferred to another police station, where she was placed in a cell until she was taken to court.
“I could not understand how the officers could be doing this to an innocent citizen and that they were abusing their power in that manner,” she said.
The two charges were eventually dismissed in March 2016 after the police officer repeatedly failed to attend hearings of the case.
Pierre was tasked with the responsibility of calculating the compensation for the family after State attorneys failed to file a defence to their lawsuit before Justice Mira Dean-Armorer.
Pierre ruled that the mother was entitled to $135,000 in general damages and $25,000 in exemplary damages.
Each of her sons received $30,000 in general damages and $30,000 in exemplary damages.
The State was also ordered to pay their legal costs for bringing the lawsuit. The family was represented by Gerald Ramdeen and Dayadai Harripaul.