AT A time when the world is protesting against police brutality, the State has been ordered to pay over $.25 million in compensation to a Sangre Grande man who was doused with hot water and had pepper sauce rubbed on his private parts during an interrogation in February 2015 by police.
Master Sherlanne Pierre ordered the State to compensate Ralph Andrew Lewis who is 2017, filed an assault and battery and false imprisonment claim against the State. It was docketed to Justice Mira Dean-Armorer but the State wrote to Lewis’ attorney agreeing to settle the matter. Since the parties could not agree on the quantum, it was sent to the Master to assess compensation.
In her order, Pierre told the State to pay $210,000 in general and aggravated damages with 2.5 per cent interest. Lewis will also receive $50,000 in exemplary damages, and the State was also ordered to pay $41,503.79 in costs.
Lewis was represented by attorneys Lemuel Murphy and Alexia Romero. According to Lewis’ claim, on February 24, 2015, he, his mother and other relatives went to Sangre Grande police station since he had been involved in a car accident and did not make a report.
He was placed in a cell without being told why. Two days later, he was handcuffed and taken to the CID office where he was told by an acting corporal they had to question him about robberies in the Sangre Grande area. Lewis said he denied any involvement or knowledge of the alleged acts. He claimed he was later beaten and afterwards, a female officer shouted, “Like he eh know how Grande does do it. He ent talking, hot water will work.”
Lewis said his feet were handcuffed and he heard the sound of a microwave stop and an officer later pulled his pants to the front and emptied a cup of boiling water down his pants. Lewis said he was in intense pain and felt as if his penis and scrotum were on fire. Lewis said the female officer suggested pepper sauce be rubbed on his penis. She pulled out a bottle of pepper sauce from a fridge, put on gloves and Lewis was told they were going to “put pepper sauce on this tool” and it would be put on YouTube and will be called “pepper penis.”
The claim said Lewis’ pants were pulled down and the pepper sauce was rubbed on his penis. Lewis was eventually taken to the Sangre Grande hospital and transferred to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope for surgery on his injuries.
He was warded for seven days, three of which were under police guard, before another senior officer came and told him no charges would be laid and the handcuffs were removed.
Lewis was discharged from hospital on March 4, 2015. Twelve officers who were allegedly involved in the incident were arrested on March 29, 2015, and charged with misbehaviour in public office, perverting the course of justice and failing to act after receiving information. In December 2019, a magistrate discharged 11 of the officers, while one was committed to stand trial.
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