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Trinidad: Acid bath victim gets $1m award

By Derek Achong

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Raffick Mohammed with his lawyer Shabaana Mohammed outside the Hall of Justice.

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — A 61-year-old man, who was left per­ma­nent­ly scarred af­ter doused with acid by his sis­ter-in-law, has fi­nal­ly re­ceived com­pen­sa­tion af­ter an al­most two-decade-long le­gal bat­tle.

On Jan­u­ary 31, High Court Mas­ter Martha Alexan­der or­dered more than $1 mil­lion com­pen­sa­tion for Raf­fick Mo­hammed, of Walk­er Street, Ca­roni, at the end of his pro­tract­ed pri­vate as­sault and bat­tery claim against Myra Bhag­wans­ingh.

In a tele­phone in­ter­view on Thurs­day, Mo­hammed said he was pleased with the out­come.

“Mon­ey can’t com­pen­sate for this but I can help a lit­tle,” he said.

How­ev­er, he stat­ed that he was dis­ap­point­ed by the slow pace of the jus­tice sys­tem.

“Jus­tice is like that in Trinidad. Imag­ine when this hap­pened, my son was one-year-old, now he has a one-year-old son him­self,” Mo­hammed said.

In as­sess­ing the com­pen­sa­tion, Alexan­der analysed the ex­ten­sive in­juries he sus­tained in 1991 and the dozen pro­ce­dures and op­er­a­tions he had to un­der­go to help re­pair the dam­age.

Alexan­der not­ed that Mo­hammed suf­fered acid burns to 16 per cent of his body in the at­tack. His face was left dis­fig­ured. Skin had to be har­vest­ed from his groin and thighs for skin grafts.

In ad­di­tion to the phys­i­cal in­juries, Mo­hammed al­so claimed to have suf­fered de­pres­sion.

“I be­came very de­pressed and frus­trat­ed with way I looked. I could not even look at my­self in the mir­ror for years af­ter the in­ci­dent. Some­times I felt like giv­ing up and com­mit­ting sui­cide,” he said in his wit­ness state­ment.

“I am al­ways wary of peo­ple look­ing at my scars and I would of­ten wear long sleeve shirts or turn my face in a way to make the case look less ap­par­ent,” he added.

Alexan­der ruled that he was en­ti­tled to CA$10,092.95 and TT$531,539.75 in spe­cial dam­ages to cov­er the costs of med­ical ex­pens­es since the in­ci­dent.

She al­so ruled Mo­hammed was en­ti­tled to $385,000 in gen­er­al and ag­gra­vat­ed dam­ages for the pain and suf­fer­ing he en­dured.

“His in­juries erod­ed his self-con­fi­dence, self-es­teem and con­fined him to his home, caus­ing him to feel as if he were in­side a jail cell,” Alexan­der said as she not­ed that he was forced to wear a pro­tec­tive mask for three years while re­cov­er­ing from surg­eries.

She al­so or­dered that he be paid $60,000 in dam­ages for be­ing hand­i­capped on the job mar­ket by the in­juries.

The to­tal com­pen­sa­tion is ex­pect­ed to be well over $ 1 mil­lion, as Alexan­der or­dered Bhag­wans­ingh to al­so pay 2.5 per cent in­ter­est on the gen­er­al dam­ages and 1.5 per cent in­ter­est on the spe­cial dam­ages from the date of the in­ci­dent.

About the case

Ac­cord­ing to the ev­i­dence, the law­suit stemmed from an in­ci­dent at Bhag­wans­ingh’s fab­ric store in Ch­agua­nas on Au­gust 29, 1991.

Bhag­wans­ingh, whose broth­er was mar­ried to Mo­hammed’s sis­ter, re­port­ed­ly in­vit­ed him in­side the store for a con­ver­sa­tion.

Mo­hammed claimed that Bhag­wans­ingh ac­cused him of re­port­ing her broth­er to of­fi­cials of the Cus­toms and Ex­cise Di­vi­sion be­fore she drew a glass jar from un­der the cash reg­is­ter and threw the con­tents un­to his face and neck.

“I felt the liq­uid pen­e­trat­ing through my skin and I im­me­di­ate­ly be­gan to feel sting­ing and burn­ing pains about my body,” Mo­hammed said in his wit­ness state­ment.

Mo­hammed at­tempt­ed to flee but Bhag­wans­ingh chased af­ter him and threw an­oth­er con­tain­er of the liq­uid on his back.

In Feb­ru­ary 1996, Bhag­wans­ingh was con­vict­ed of caus­ing griev­ous bod­i­ly harm to Mo­hammed and was sen­tenced to 12 years in prison and 10 strokes with the cat-o-nine tails.

She even­tu­al­ly won her ap­peal and faced a re­tri­al. She was again con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to 12 years in prison.

Mo­hammed filed his com­pen­sa­tion claim against Bhag­wans­ingh in 1995, but pro­ce­dur­al de­lays meant that it was on­ly de­ter­mined in his favour in 2015.

Mo­hammed was rep­re­sent­ed by Ab­del and Shabaana Mo­hammed, while Javier For­rester and Stacey Wait­he rep­re­sent­ed Bhag­wans­ingh.

This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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