– Judge says police doctor lacked professionalism
A court has awarded $6.5M in damages to a teenager who sued the state after his genitals were doused with methylated spirit and set alight by police during a murder investigation in 2009.
The case had drawn local and international condemnation after a graphic photo of Twyon Thomas, now 16 years old, was published by Kaieteur News shortly after the incident.
A divisional police commander was removed from her post after an outpouring of public anger, and the alleged culprits were charged.
Attorney-at-law, Khemraj Ramjattan, who represented the teenager— who had since gone into hiding with his family— had asked for $25M in compensation and damages.
But Justice Roxanne George, in a 36-page ruling handed down yesterday awarder $6.5M, though she found that the fundamental rights of Thomas were violated.
The civil matter was filed against the Attorney General of Guyana, and the Commissioner of Police, Sergeant Narine Lall and Constable Mohanram Dulai.
The Attorney General was also ordered to pay $100,000 in costs while Sergeant Narine Lall and Constable Mohanram Dulai, the two policemen accused of torturing Thomas, were ordered to pay $75,000 each in costs.
The Commissioner of Police was not made to pay anything.
The Judge also criticized the actions of Dr. Mahendra Chand, a police doctor, who had examined the injured teen while he was in police custody at the Leonora Police Station, as lacking “sensitivity and professionalism.”
In January, the two policemen and another colleague, Corporal Oswald Foo, who were charged with malicious wounding, were set free by the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate’s Court after the victim failed to turn up for 17 consecutive court dates to give evidence.
In his deposition, the teen, who was born in November 1994, said he was beaten, burnt and suffered severe injuries at the hands of the police while in their custody.
In awarding the damages, the Judge noted that the matter was not one of damages for assault and battery and false imprisonment, but rather of a claim for redress.
She took into account that the teen’s parents spent money on transportation and medical treatment and that he could not work because of the injuries.
She found that the detention by the police was unlawful and there was a flagrant abuse of power.
“The continued detention of Thomas in his seriously injured condition can be said to amount to circumstances of aggravation or individual suffering and distress.
“Other aggravating circumstances include that Thomas would have to live with the horrible physical and psychological memories and trauma of what was done to him, not by ordinary persons , but by law enforcement officers who were bound to serve and protect him, moreso as a child, even if he were a suspect in a criminal investigation; there is no evidence that he was.”
She granted $1.5M as compensatory damages and another $3M as an award for the aggravating circumstances.
An additional $2Mwas awarded for exemplary damages.
“Thus the total award is $6.5M in damages. I am of the view that this global or total award reflects that there is a need for the realization and understanding that respect for the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution and respect for the human rights of persons requires vigilance and carries with it tremendous responsibility.”
Dr. Mahendra Chand was said to have examined the injured teen, who was 14 years at the time, in the lockups while his head was covered with a hood.
Earlier in December, the teen’s mother, Shirley Thomas, when contacted by Kaieteur News, had denied that the family had reached a financial settlement with the accused ranks.
According to the mother, her son was in the interior and they were trying to locate him to inform him about the court date.
This publication had managed to contact Thomas’s reputed husband, Doodnauth Jaikarran, who said that he and Ms. Thomas separated last year February and that he had not seen the woman and her son since.
According to Mr. Jaikarran, an individual had approached him to offer the family a settlement shortly after the torture incident was made public. He claimed that he rejected the offer.
Relatives of Deonarine Rafick, another accused, had admitted to accepting compensation. Rafick was charged in connection with the murder of Region Three official, Ramenaught Bisram, in October 2009.
However, he was released from prison after it was determined that the confession statement he gave was not free and voluntary.
One relative told Kaieteur News yesterday that the officers and other persons begged them to settle the matter.
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