Attorney General seeks delay or dismissal of ‘torture teen’ compensation case
The ‘torture teen’ compensation case has taken a twist. The state has raised the contention that to award damages to Twyon Thomas would “prejudice the trial” of the two ranks who have been charged in the matter “since it will have the effect of determining their guilt.”
The State’s response to the submissions of Khemraj Ramjattan, Thomas’s lawyer in the compensation case, has gone from denying the allegations by Thomas to seeking a delay in the proceedings.
Failing the delay it is seeking a dismissal of the instant motion filed by Ramjattan seeking compensation for 15-year-old Thomas.
The matter is currently being heard in both criminal and civil court. However, according to the Attorney General’s (AG) Office this should not be the case. The AG’s Office has taken the position that the outcome of the criminal matter will bear heavily on the civil suit and vice versa. It is contending that a “ruling in the instant Motion will amount to a ‘finding’ in proceedings” which will therefore impact upon any ruling made by the Magistrate’s Court in the criminal case against the two charged ranks.
The request that the court either stay the determination of the instant Motion pending the hearing and determination of the criminal proceedings or refuse the claim entirely came in the last submission of the Attorney General’s Office filed on June 22, last.
That submission also went on to address the $40M settlement that Ramjattan is seeking on Thomas’s behalf, calling it “outlandish, excessive and wholly misconceived”.
The Attorney General is citing several cases where the size of the settlement was based on the idea that the settlement should be compensatory and not punitive. One of the cases cited said that “the emphasis must be on the compensatory and not the punitive element. The objective is to affirm the right, not punish the transgressor.”
Ramjattan answered this submission with one of his own on June 30, 2010 when he stated that there are two officers charged with the offence was indicative of the State admitting liability since (the state’s) actions in the matter were found to be unlawful and warranting criminal penalties.
He went on to point out that regardless of the guilt or innocence of the two ranks charged, the State’s findings that the conduct of its agents was unlawful would be undisturbed.
Ramjattan stated in his last submission that the Respondents, on behalf of the state, have never “denied the facts as stated by the Applicant (Thomas)”.
He went on to highlight what he called the State’s refusal to even make a voluntary offer of compensation and the “arrogance, high-handedness, disdain and disregard for its citizens and their rights.”
The story which has been dragging out for some nine months now began when Twyon Thomas was arrested and taken from his home on the night of October 27, 2009 and subsequently detained by police until October 31, 2009.
Thomas deposed that during that period he suffered numerous beatings, verbal abuse and torture at the hands of the police. It was recorded that he suffered injuries consistent with a beating or beatings and was severely burnt on and around his genital area.
Thomas claimed that these injuries were all delivered as a result of his refusal to admit involvement in a crime that he knew nothing about.
Ramjattan subsequently filed a suit for compensation on Thomas’s behalf last March. In the suit Ramjattan claimed that Thomas was due for compensation from the state as a result of a contravention of Article 141(1) of the constitution which provides that “No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment.”
In answer to Ramjattan’s claim, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Seelall Persaud, in a sworn affidavit claimed that Thomas was arrested pursuant to a murder investigation and that he had no knowledge of the treatment that the boy claimed was visited upon him while in police custody.
Yet he admitted in the very same affidavit that as a result of an investigation conducted into the allegations of torture and use of force by members of the Force, two officers, Sergeant Narine Lall and Det. Constable Mohanram Dolai were facing criminal charges.