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(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) — The State has to fork out close to $.3 million to compensate a Barrackpore mother and her two children for malicious prosecution after she was pulled over by police in 2013 for not wearing her seatbelt, but was instead charged with resisting arrest and using obscene language.
The assessment was made by a High Court Master on Wednesday after the woman and her children previously succeeded in their case before a High Court judge.
The incident that led to the lawsuit being filed took place on January 26, 2013, while the woman, Anita Surujbally, was driving in the vicinity of Khanhai Road and Rochard Douglas Road, Barrackpore, where she was stopped by a police officer identified as PC Ali.
At the time, her two children, aged eight and ten, were in the vehicle.
The officer asked why she was not wearing her seatbelt, to which she replied she had surgery and she had three cuts on her belly area.
PC Ali then said: “Allyuh want to drive without seatbelt?” to which the woman said: “Officer, you are doing your job, continue to do it.”
It was at this point the officer said: “Yuh mouth too hot. I going to charge you for resisting arrest and using obscene language,” before slamming her against the police vehicle.
During all of this, her two children were standing next to their mother, crying and begging the officer to leave their mother alone.
Surujbally then attempted to use her cellphone to call her husband, but the officer took hold of the device and smashed it on the ground, destroying the phone.
All three were then placed in the police vehicle and taken to the Barrackpore Police Station.
While at the station, Surujbally was handcuffed to one of the bars of a cell in the station while her children sat next to her on a chair. She was not placed in the cell since it contained only men.
The children were eventually released into the custody of their father, who arrived at the station several hours later.
Surujbally was subsequently transferred to the San Fernando Police Station for her photo to be taken.
But while being taken to that station, the woman began complaining of feeling unwell due to her low blood glucose level. She was given a mint by one of the officers.
After her photo was taken, she was taken to the Gasparillo station where she was placed in a cell with another woman.
Nine hours in filthy cell
The only furniture the cell was equipped with was a piece of mattress on the floor.
There were no toilet facilities. Instead, there was a hole in the ground to be used as a toilet. The hole was open and uncovered. The cell was dirty and there was an unbearable stench of urine and faeces.
She was kept in the cell of the station until 1 a.m. the following day, approximately nine hours after she was arrested. She was only released after being granted bail by a justice of the peace.
The charges laid against her were eventually dismissed after the officer never showed up for court.
In assessing the award of damages, the High Court Master ordered that the woman is to receive $135,000 in general damages and an additional $25,000 in exemplary damages.
Her children are to each receive the sum of $30,000 in both general and exemplary damages—a grand total of $280,000.
They were represented by attorney Gerald Ramdeen.