In addition, Justice Vasheist Kokaram said the case “as presented, demonstrates through an action of false imprisonment the balance between individual and collective rights in times where there is a threat to our public safety under a declared state of emergency”.
Anton ‘Boombay’ Boney had challenged his detention that he was among a group of people who were planning to murder Persad-Bissessar, her then attorney general Anand Ramlogan, housing and environment Minister Roodal Moonilal and local government minister Chandresh Sharma.
Boney’s lawyers had argued that the police damaged their client’s reputation by the allegations made against him. Attorneys Lee Merry and Kelston Pope said that the police never justified the arrest and detention of their client despite advancing a defence that it was legally done under the Emergency Powers Regulations.
Boney was detained during the period November 29, 2011, to December 5, 2011. And released at the end of the SOE without any charge being laid against him.
In his ruling on Thu4rsday, the judge warned against the arbitrary detention of people even during a declared state of emergency.
“Freedom from arbitrary detention is a proud legacy of our shared values and equally threats to public safety lie not only in attacks against citizens’ security and well-being by criminal acts but, also acts of the State which irrationally deprives its citizens of their cherished private rights and individual freedoms,” Justice Kokaram said.
He said that while Corporal Charles Budri, the police officer, who arrested Boney, did have an honest belief in the suspicion that Boney was involved in criminal activity, there was no proper explanation for his detention beyond the first 24 hours.
“In the aftermath of many acts of terror, which have threatened public safety, democratic societies legitimately react to protect its citizens and their values of human security and their right to peace,” the judge said.
But he emphasised that “mere suspicion” to justify an arrest was “no licence to continue to detain” an individual without justification.
Justice Kokaram said while there was an honestly held suspicion of Boney’s involvement in gun related violence, which may have destabilised the country, he was not satisfied that the five-day detention was necessary for the police to continue their enquiries into his involvement in the alleged plot.
During the trial retired deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Mervyn Richardson defended Boney’s arrest and detention, saying the police had cogent, compelling intelligence that something bad was to happen.
“We had to act,” Richardson said.
But the judge dismissed his evidence of the need to conduct interviews and make further enquiries into Boney’s alleged involvement in the plot as “unhelpful and very thin.
“There is no question in this case of the legitimacy of the purpose of the Emergency Powers Regulations legislation under which the power of arrest is being exercised.
“…similarly, in this case, it cannot be overlooked that this is a nation that has endured the reverberating pangs of criminal activity from the 1970 insurrection to the 1990 attempted coup to an increasing crime rate for a small nation which resulted in the Government’s decision to declare the State of Emergency,” Justice Kokaram said.
Boney was one of some 17 people, including a police sergeant, who were arrested in connection with an alleged threat to assassinate Persad-Bissessar and three members of Cabinet as well as create public disorder and panic.
According to the detenion order, the assassinations were due to have taken place on November 24, 2011.
In late 2011, Persad Bissessar told the nation that she was not surprised that the authorities had uncovered the plot to assassinate her and members of her cabinet since the introduction of the SOE had forced the criminal elements to seek reprisals.
“…I did anticipate their extreme displeasure,” she said, noting that nearly 7, 300 people had been detained with 463 arrested on gang related activities under the SOE.
“ I am advised by the law enforcement authorities that they have, through their intelligence resources uncovered an assassination plot against members of my government and myself,” she said then.
- Countries: Trinidad_Tobago