Disappearing case file the reason State failed to defend $20M malicious prosecution matter

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Disappearing case file the reason State failed to defend $20M malicious prosecution matter

A case of the disappearing file.

On the heels of the shock $20 million payout to nine former murder accused in the Vindra Naipaul Coolman case, after the state failed to defend, attorney general Reginald Armour, SC, has revealed that the State never got the opportunity to file a defence in the malicious prosecution matter, due to the unexplained disappearance of the case file.

High Court Master Martha Alexander, on Monday ordered that the Office of the Attorney General pay each of the freed men $2 million for malicious prosecution; exemplary damages in the sum of $100,000 each; expert cost in the sum of $68,000 and prescribed cost at $200,917.56—a grand total of more than $20 million.

Speaking during a press conference on Wednesday, Armour said: “My very limited investigation to date, has advised that the claim form and statement of case filed by these gentlemen were filed on May 29, 2020. And it was served on the Solicitor General’s office on June 22, 2020. On June 23, 2020, the record shows further a file was opened for the matter and that the file was sent to the Solicitor General for assignment. Thereafter, the file disappeared.”

He then produced a file he said was the case file of the matter.

“That file there is what disappeared on June 23, 2020. What is on the table there is as a result of the efforts of Mr (Stuart) Young. Yesterday (Tuesday), we have retrieved from the registry of the High Court because Mr Young got on the High Court and said these are all documents filed with the High Court, can we see them? Until yesterday when we got those papers, the Secretariat of the Attorney General had never seen those documents. The file disappeared on June 23, 2020.”

He noted that documents submitted were signed for as being received on June 22, 2020. “It seems incredulous. And it demands an explanation,” he added.

The AG said it warrants a full investigation and all appropriate agencies will be brought to bear on this investigation.

“What we’ve been able to piece together is thereafter, on August 5, a notice of application for default judgment in that matter, was further served on the office of the Solicitor General. It was received on November 12, 2020.”

He said the State had a ‘slam dunk’ defence available to it, but for the fact that the file disappeared, based on the fact that two other co-accused, Joey Lewis and Akiel Gloster, had their appeals filed in 2012, dismissed.

“They went to the Court of Appeal on a challenge that they had no case to answer in the Vindra Naipaul matter. The case was heard before Justices Peter Jamadar, Gregory Smith and Maureen Rajnauth-Lee. They delivered a judgment on July 31, 2013. And after hearing all of the arguments of these two co-accused in the Vindra Naipaul matter, the Court at paragraph 26 concluded, ‘in the circumstances, we conclude that there was reasonable and probable cause to charge Joey Lewis and Akiel Gloster with the offences of murder, kidnapping and kidnapping for ransom.’ Accordingly, their appeals are dismissed.

“So, two of the co-accused in the Vindra Naipual murder trial had already had a pronouncement that there was reasonable cause for them to be charged, as they were. As were all of the other co-accused.”