Adam Riley Instructed by Robert Abdool-Mitchell of Freedom Law Chambers (San Fernando, Trinidad) for the Appellant
Robert Strang Instructed by Charles Russell Speechlys LLP (London) for the Respondent
This appeal concerns what is necessary to establish a case of malicious prosecution and whether the courts below were wrong to hold that no such case had been made out on the evidence in the present case.
The factual background
On 5 February 2000 the appellant, Mr Matadai Roopnarine, was charged with conspiring with others in September 1999 to forge documents in relation to the grant of bail for Gason Pierre, a person charged with drug trafficking offences.
On 13 February 2000 at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court, Tobago, the appellant pleaded not guilty to the charges and bail was set in the sum of TT$500,000. The appellant was remanded in custody for seven months before he was able to obtain bail.
Between 2003 and 2005 the appellant appeared in the Magistrates’ Court at various hearings of the preliminary inquiry. During those hearings evidence was given by police witnesses Corporal Mohammed (who had laid the charges against the appellant), Senior Superintendent Piggott (SS Piggott) and Assistant Superintendent Boyd (AS Boyd).
In early 2008 Corporal Mohammed died. On 14 April 2008, before the preliminary inquiry had been concluded, notices of discontinuance were filed at the Magistrates’ Court by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
On 3 May 2011 the appellant issued a claim for malicious prosecution against the respondent Attorney General, as representative of the State. The particulars of claim alleged that: (i) the police had concocted or fabricated evidence against him; (ii) they had failed to investigate the matter properly; (iii) they had attempted to introduce false evidence at the trial; (iv) Corporal Mohammed had failed to conduct proper or sufficient enquiries and had allowed him to be prosecuted based on insufficient or concocted evidence, and had continued the prosecution despite the lack of credible or sufficient evidence; (v) evidence was given in the knowledge that it was false; and (vi) the police acted recklessly in the arrest and prosecution of the appellant.
In the Attorney General’s defence the following particulars of reasonable and probable cause for bringing the prosecution were provided:
“I. The Special Investigations Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department was set up in 1999 to probe the corrupt practices if Justices of the Peace and matters relating to the granting of bail. The Unit would review all documentation pertaining to the grant of bail, for example, protocol of deeds, recognisance of bail and other relevant documents.
II. Upon examining the paperwork relating to the grant of bail to Ian Cudjoe, Gason Pierre and Krishendath Hajarie, irregularities were noticed. There were three joint owners of the property namely, Samdaye Barlo, Balliram Ramlochan and Roopnarine Ramlochan and all of them would have to consent and stand bail. As a consequence, interviews were conducted and signed statements taken from Balliram Ramlochan and Roopnarine Ramlochan. They denied ever taking bail and denied they were the holders of said passports used in the procedure.
III. Additionally, Samdaye Barlo gave a statement that she was approached by Jason, a neighbour, who asked her for her identification card and deed and took her to Tobago without informing her of the reason for the trip. She said that he told her to sign pieces of paper but she did not know she was taking bail and neither of her brothers were with her. A true copy of a statutory declaration of Samdaye Barlo is hereto annexed and marked ‘C’.
IV. A Certificate of Analysis obtained from the Forensics Department concluded that it was probable that the questioned signatures ‘Balliram Ramlochan’ on the Oath Justifying Bail #2950/99, the Statutory Declaration and the Recognizance of Bail #2950/99 were executed by the Claimant.
V. Statements were also taken from Magistrate Ayres Caesar and Gail Frazer, Acting Assistant, Clerk of the Peace. Checks were made at the Immigration Department that showed the passport numbers attributed to Balliram Ramlochan and Roopnarine Ramfochan on the bail documents were false.”
In February 2012 the appellant and the respondent provided lists of documents. The respondent’s list included notes of evidence from the preliminary inquiry.
In May 2012 witness statements of the appellant, SS Piggott and AS Boyd were filed.
The claim was heard in the High Court before Harris J on 19 March 2013. The appellant gave evidence and was cross-examined.