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Three testify in prisoner’s suit
The case that sparked a police probe into allegations of exaggerated civil assault lawsuits from prisoners seeking compensation from the State came up for hearing yesterday.
While media personnel were allowed into the courtroom at the Port-of-Spain High Court to listen to the case, which began yesterday morning and concluded hours later, Master Patricia Sobian-Awai was careful to note that the case before her was a chamber court matter, which only attorneys and the parties involved could attend and hence could not be reported on. In total three witnesses testified yesterday.
Jamal Sambury, the prisoner at the remand yard at the Golden Grove State Prison who filed the lawsuit, testified in support of his case. Two prison officers—Raffie Mohammed and Shawn Salvary—were called to give evidence to buttress the State’s defence against Sambury’s claims. In his lawsuit, filed in 2011, Sambury claimed to have suffered injuries after being beaten by police in the holding cell of the Princes Town Magistrates Court in October 2010.
While the State accepted liability, it is disputing the gravity of the injuries Sambury suffered. Sambury’s case shot into the limelight recently after a newspaper report on a judgment Sobian-Awai delivered on February 5, when she raised issues about the veracity of Sambury’s claim. Her strongly worded sentiments have been referred to the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Association.
Last month, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar instructed Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to investigate concerns about prisoner litigation raised by former Solicitor General Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell in a letter to the PM in August last year. Donaldson-Honeywell’s letter did not directly mention Sambury’s case.
The issue culminated on May 8, when Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard suggested a criminal probe by the police, who, he said, were “the organisation with the resources and investigative experience for such a serious task.” After the witnesses gave their evidence and had been cross-examined, Sobian-Awai told the attorneys to file written submissions on the damages that should be awarded to Sambury.
She told them to return before her on July 25 when they will be allowed to make further oral submissions. Sambury is being represented by Gerald Ramdeen and Varun Debideen and attorney Lee Merry represented the State.
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