Wrongfully arrested 3 times for non-payment of maintenance Court awards $$
THE High Court has entered judgment in favour of a Tobago man who was arrested on three occasions for the non-payment of child maintenance.
The arrests were made even though the court order that mandated him to make such payments had expired when his son turned the age of 18 in 2017.
On two of the occasions, he was arrested under a different court order and placed in a cell at Scarborough Police Station although he informed the officers that he was no longer required to pay maintenance, since his son was now an adult.
During a virtual hearing yesterday, Justice Carol Gobin entered judgment in favour of Curtis Carrington, an operator at Scarborough Hospital, after the State failed to enter a defence.
The matter has now been referred to a High Court Master for determination on the quantum of compensation that ought to be paid by the Office of the Attorney General.
In 2013, Carrington was issued with an order by the Family Court requiring him to make weekly payments of $100 until his son turned 18 on March 9, 2017.
According to his claim, arrangements were made for this sum to be automatically deducted from his salary and paid into the court by his employer and, therefore, he never missed any of his payments.
But on November 6, 2017, Carrington said he was arrested by Scarborough police for the alleged non-payment of $2,500 for the period ending July 31, 2017.
Carrington said he protested that he was not in arrears and indicated that the maintenance payments came automatically from his salary.
“He even indicated that the order had already come to an end and that he was no longer obligated to pay maintenance past March 9, 2017.
However, the police officers loudly shouted him down and grabbed him, and handcuffed him and dragged him off and threw him in the back of a police van,” the claim stated.
Carrington was then imprisoned in “a damp, dank and dirty holding cell” for prisoners at the Scarborough station where he did not have access to a washroom and was forced to sleep on a cold concrete floor “which was smeared in some areas with faeces and had small puddles of urine on the floor”.
He was not allowed to leave the station until his family arrived and made the purported outstanding payment and received a receipt.
Just one week later, while at work, Carrington was again arrested, taken to the station and placed in the same cell.
This time, he was informed he was being detained for the non-payment of $2,400 for the period June 23 to August 17, 2017.
Again, he was not allowed to leave the station until his family members paid the money.
However, upon doing so and receiving the receipt, they noticed the case number referred to was not the one that applied to Carrington.
“Subsequent to the second arrest, the claimant made the necessary efforts to inform the Family Court of Trinidad and Tobago of what had occurred and to request that the court address those errors in relation to warrants being issued for non-payment of maintenance for periods after which the said child had already attained the age of 18.”
At the court, the errors were acknowledged and he was reimbursed for the sums paid at the station.
In spite of this, on March 4, 2020, Carrington was again arrested, taken to the Scarborough station and again placed in the same cell for the non-payment of $1,500.
His family again made the payment after which he was released. On the receipt, the case number was not consistent with the one that Carrington had been a party to in the Family Court.
Following his release, he was again reimbursed at the court.
In the claim, attorney Martin George said his client had been unlawfully detained through no fault of his own, but instead based on the “wanton recklessness and carelessness of the State”.
“Once again the cover letter refers to a case number which our client was never party to and this is a testament to the wanton recklessness and carelessness of the State, in that they never even sought to correct their previous error and could not care less about how many times they arrested the claimant on the wrong information and the wrong case number,” George stated.
By: Rickie Ramdass