Trinidad mansion owner threatens to sue over police raid

(Trinidad Guardian) One of the sev­en Sea View Dri­ve, Gulf View res­i­dents whose homes were searched as part of a con­tro­ver­sial po­lice op­er­a­tion last Fri­day, has threat­ened to sue the State over the in­ci­dent.

The threat was made in a pre-ac­tion pro­to­col let­ter served on Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith and the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, by lawyers rep­re­sent­ing re­tired oil work­er Ravi Di­nanath and his wife Lelawa­tee.

In the 14-page doc­u­ment, the cou­ple’s lawyer Ste­fan Ramkissoon de­scribed the ac­tions of ap­prox­i­mate­ly 17 un­named of­fi­cers as op­pres­sive, ar­bi­trary and un­con­sti­tu­tion­al as he sought to out­line what tran­spired on May 3.

Ac­cord­ing to Ramkissoon, around 9.30 am Lelawa­tee was home alone when of­fi­cers, most of whom were masked and wear­ing cam­ou­flage uni­forms, en­tered through the front gate and sur­round­ed the house. He claimed she agreed to let the of­fi­cers in­side af­ter they threat­ened to de­stroy the door us­ing a sledge­ham­mer.

While the house was be­ing ran­sacked by the of­fi­cers, Di­nanath ar­rived from his morn­ing walk. He re­port­ed­ly asked the of­fi­cers if they had a war­rant for the search and was told it was “none of his busi­ness” and that he could be ar­rest­ed for ob­struct­ing them in the ex­e­cu­tion of their du­ties.

Dur­ing the ex­change, Lelawa­tee re­port­ed­ly suf­fered an asth­ma at­tack but the of­fi­cers re­fused to as­sist in tak­ing her to hos­pi­tal.

“You call them, we don’t have time for that,” they are al­leged to have said.

The of­fi­cers re­port­ed­ly took video record­ings of the cou­ple’s prop­er­ty be­fore they left.

In the let­ter, Ramkissoon sought to out­line his un­der­stand­ing of the le­gal cir­cum­stances un­der which po­lice can en­ter in­to a prop­er­ty with­out a war­rant.

“Po­lice of­fi­cers can on­ly en­ter an ac­cused’s pri­vate res­i­dence with­out a war­rant where it is in the pur­suance of their com­mon-law du­ty to pro­tect life and safe­ty; where a crime is or is rea­son­ably sus­pect­ed of be­ing com­mit­ted; il­le­gal dis­si­pa­tion of ev­i­dence of a crime (and not nec­es­sar­i­ly in in­stances where there is ev­i­dence of a crime be­ing stores); in cas­es of hot pur­suit (where the pri­va­cy in­ter­est ar­gu­ment may give way to the in­ter­est of so­ci­ety en­sur­ing po­lice pro­tec­tion),” Ramkissoon stat­ed.

He said none of the con­di­tions high­light­ed were present in the Di­nanaths’ case.

“This un­law­ful search, there­fore, brings in­to ques­tion is­sues of mis­fea­sance and/or mis­be­hav­iour in pub­lic of­fice where­in po­lice of­fi­cers may have ex­er­cised the pow­er en­trust­ed to them, by virtue of the of­fice which they hold, for un­law­ful pur­pos­es,” he said.

In the let­ter, Ramkissoon gave the State 14 days in which to re­spond to the let­ter be­fore his clients file their case over breach­es of their con­sti­tu­tion­al rights. Ramkissoon sug­gest­ed that his clients would be will­ing to for­go the law­suit if they re­ceive a “rea­son­able of­fer” of com­pen­sa­tion and a pub­lic apol­o­gy from the of­fi­cers as well as Grif­fith.

The cou­ple is al­so be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by Jagdeo Singh, Di­nesh Ram­bal­ly and Kiel Tak­lals­ingh.

In to­tal, sev­en homes were searched dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, in which po­lice were al­leged to have been search­ing for a sus­pi­cious pack­age which was not re­cov­ered. One per­son was ar­rest­ed and sub­se­quent­ly re­leased but res­i­dents claimed that he was a street dweller.

Fol­low­ing the op­er­a­tion, Grif­fith is­sued a re­lease as­sur­ing the pub­lic that it was done for a spe­cif­ic pur­pose and not based on race, pol­i­tics or re­li­gion.

In a press re­lease is­sued on Thurs­day, the Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­i­ty (PCA) stat­ed that its pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tions showed there was no ev­i­dence of mis­con­duct by the of­fi­cers.

 

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