…search warrant found to be flawed
Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang yesterday lambasted the police as he made the order to have the police return the seized equipment owned by businessman and politician, Peter Ramsaroop.
Justice Chang also found that the search warrant executed by the police was flawed as it was signed by a Justice of the Peace.
The search warrant was supposed to have been signed by a Magistrate and the matter heard in a timely manner.
It was pointed out that for the police to come two months later and say that they don’t have the technical competence to properly assess what’s on the hard drives that were seized is lunacy.
Justice Chang said that the police cannot seize and keep a person’s property then take their own precious time to institute charges.
Commissioner of Police Henry Greene will be served with the order today to return forthwith two computer hard drives and one digital video recorder removed from Ramsaroop’s home and two hard drives removed from his business premises on the East Bank Demerara, that were seized by ranks of the Criminal Investigation Department, on May 17 last.
The ruling is based on the grounds that the continued detention of the property of Ramsaroop, “is unlawful, unreasonable, in excess of jurisdiction, done in bad faith with procedural impropriety, ultra vires, null, void and of no legal effect and in breach of the applicant’s fundamental rights as guaranteed by Article 142 of the Constitution of the Republic of Guyana.”
Ramsaroop, through his lawyer, Robert Corbin, had filed a Prerogative Writ on June 21, claiming that the continued detention of his property by the police was in breach of his constitutional rights.
On that, an Order Nisi of Mandamus was issued by the Chief Justice, directed to the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Henry Greene, commanding him to show cause why the Order should not be made absolute.
When the matter was called on June 25, a State Counsel from the Attorney General Chambers, appearing on behalf of the Police Commissioner, requested leave to file an Affidavit in answer.
Seven days leave was granted by the Chief Justice and the matter was fixed for hearing yesterday
During yesterday’s hearing, the Court heard excuses from State Counsel about the failure of the Police Commissioner to file the Affidavit.
Among the explanations were that the police were dilatory in providing the information to the AG Chambers.
However State Counsel stated that he has an Affidavit in Draft and was awaiting information from the police in writing as to why they still needed to detain Ramsaroop’s property.
On further inquiry from the Chief Justice, State Counsel informed the Court that he believed that the police wanted to hold on to the property as they needed an expert to examine the hard drives. He sought an extension of time to submit the Affidavit.
This was vigorously opposed by Corbin on the grounds that the police had adequate time and that a citizen’s constitutional right should not be jeopardised by police incompetence; that in any event there was a violation of the law if the police action was, as claimed by them, under the Summary Jurisdiction Offences Act.
“Under these sections the Law required that the warrant for such a search and detention should be issued by a Magistrate and the police were required to present the items seized to the said Magistrate for a determination as to whether the detained items constituted a breach of the law. Consequently, the CID could not substitute themselves for the Magistrate.”
In ruling on the matter Justice Chang stated that the police could not go about detaining citizens’ property and not complying with the requirements of the Law.
He stated that in addition to the fact that no charge had been laid against Ramsaroop, the police failed to have a Magistrate determine the matter as required by the Law.
The police, he stated, could not expect the citizen to suffer because of their lack of technical competence or inefficiency when it was the police that initiated the action to detain the property.
He was very harsh in his criticism of the police action and forthwith made the Order Absolute.
When contacted yesterday, Ramsaroop said that he feels vindicated, given the rash of inappropriate involvement by the political system with the Police.
“What is even more appalling is that the Chronicle, using our own taxpayers money published many untruths about the case…I do plan to sue the Guyana Chronicle.”
He said that if the police would put so much effort as they did with his case in solving real crimes such as the murder of Minister Satyadeow Sawh, “we would be a better nation.”
He added also that he is disappointed that they, “used someone to try to get to me…The fact the (Ramsaroop) external cameras shows a senior police official coming into the building and apartment at strange hours in the night is of great concern and in addition the tapping of the phone lines…The rights of our citizens must be protected not violated.”
Ramsaroop, late last month, moved through his attorney Robert Corbin to have the police return his seized computer hard drives but Chief Justice Chang at that time had called on the police to show cause why they should keep the seized equipment.
Corbin had argued that the police had not found anything incriminating on the computer hard drives but still refused to return the equipment.
He said that Ramsaroop has information on the computer that relates to his business and political life and needs the equipment.
Police ranks had swooped down on properties belonging to Ramsaroop and removed what they said were live cameras in the apartment of one of his tenants, Nicole Ming, along with several computer hard drives.
The police have since said that they have found nothing incriminating on the hard drives and Ramsaroop has never been charged.
Ramsaroop has always vehemently denied allegations that he was secretly filming, charging that the actions against him may have been political persecution.
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