Barbados to pay for Trini firearms dealer’s arrest

The Barbados government has accepted blame for the “forcible removal” of gun dealer Brent Thomas from his hotel room on the Caribbean island by its police force in 2022.

In a letter obtained by Newsday, the attorney for Barbados’ Attorney General Dale Marshall, SC, said the island’s government had accepted liability on his advice.

“I have advised my client that the State of Barbados should accept liability in respect of the claim for breach of section 18 of the Constitution of Barbados,” Roger Forde, KC, informed Thomas.

That section deals with the right to a fair hearing and protection of the law. Forde’s letter also said, “In the circumstances, kindly send me a claim on quantum together with authorities in support of the same.

He also added, “I am of the view that many of the documents requested by you touch and concern liability which my client has agreed to accept.”

The parties are locked in negotiations on an agreed settlement which is likely to be substantial.

Thomas initiated legal action seeking compensation for the “egregious conduct” of the Barbadian authorities as well as several declarations relating to his “arrest, detention and forced repatriation” by the Barbados Police Service.

He demanded to know who gave the directive which led to his “unlawful abduction” from a hotel room in Barbados on October 5, 2022, as stated by Justice Devindra Rampersad in his ruling on Thomas’ constitutional challenge in April 2023.

“It is well established that individually or cumulatively, members of the BPS (Barbados Police Service) acted outwith the law and refused to afford our client the protection of the law afforded to him by the Constitution.

“The laws of Barbados did not authorise any of the acts of the BPS relative to our client which occurred on October 5, 2022,” Marshall was told by Thomas’ attorneys in a pre-action protocol letter.

Thomas, 61, is the owner of the Specialist Shooters Training Centre (SSTC), which has been one of the main suppliers of guns, ammunition and other security equipment to various arms of the State for over 20 years, is represented by local attorneys Fyard Hosein, SC, Aadam Hosein, Clay Hackett, and Barbadian attorney Nicholas Jackman.

In November 2022, Thomas filed a constitutional claim against the State and sued over the criminal charges against him.

The latter were stayed by Rampersad who condemned the police officers, both locally and from Barbados, for their method of capturing and bringing Thomas back to TT.

The State had also admitted that Thomas’ return to TT was unlawful but has appealed aspects of Rampersad’s ruling. The appeal will be heard towards the end of July.

Rampersad is also expected to decide on compensation which could also be substantial.

In his letter to Marshall, Thomas has asked for details from the Barbadian authorities. Jackman urged the Barbadian AG to provide the information, which, he said the State would be obliged to give if the matter goes to trial.

Thomas’s legal team wants the names and ranks of the members of the TTPS, or any other party, who made the request and who contacted Caricom IMPACS (the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security), a special law enforcement agency of Caricom; the names and/or ranks or designation of the persons (from Barbados) who received this information from members of the TTPS, or any other party; the names and/or ranks of persons of the members of the TTPS, or any other party, who interacted with members of the BPS.

He also wants the names of the ministers from TT and Barbados who interacted with each other as well as copies of all correspondence and written communication exchanged between them as well as with any public official or police officer, including those from IMPACS.

Thomas is also seeking the full report Marshall received from the Barbados commissioner of police. Included in the lengthy list of requests are the reports from the Regional Security System (RSS), IMPACS and the Ministry of National Security, which Marshall referred to in his address to the parliament.

Added to his requests was a copy of the flight plan and manifest of the RSS plane used to transport Thomas from Barbados to Trinidad; a statement containing the name of the pilots and/or flight crew on the RSS plane, the nature and the make of the plane and the location at which the plane is held.

In an address to the Barbadian Parliament on May 9, 2023, Marshall said on October 4, 2022, an approach was made by the Transnational Organised Crime Unit (TOCU) of the TT police service to IMPACS.

Marshall said IMPACS contacted a gazetted officer of the BDS who was told Thomas was a person of interest to the TTPS and the subject of several warrants in Trinidad but had eluded the surveillance of TOCU.

Thomas was on his way to visit his US cardiologist and stopped over in Barbados when he was detained at his hotel, handcuffed and handed over to three officers assigned to TT’s Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) on the tarmac of the Grantley Adams International Airport.

It was alleged by the then PSB’s head Suzette Martin, now a deputy commissioner, that Thomas intended to travel to Greece.

Marshall also gave details of the two regional bodies’ involvement in the operation. He said on October 5, 2022, the RSS received a request from IMPACS to transport four Trinidadian police officers from Trinidad to Barbados, which landed at 4.11 pm, and to transport the four officers and Thomas back to Trinidad.

“The co-ordination of the travel to Barbados of the TT Police Service and their return with Mr Thomas to Trinidad was co-ordinated fully by Caricom IMPACS.”

Marshall said he recognises Barbados’ officers had “fallen short” of the law by acting without an extradition request. “I can confirm that no request was made for the extradition of Mr Thomas,” he told the Barbadian parliament.

In his legal proceedings in TT, Thomas detailed what transpired in his Barbados hotel. He had arrived in Barbados on October 4, 2022, en route to Miami to meet his cardiologist Dr Ceasar Pellarano and checked into the Courtyard by Marriott Bridgetown.

“Around 3 am, on October 5, 2022, whilst asleep in my hotel in Barbados, I was jolted awake by thunderous shouts of ‘Police, police’ and banging on my hotel door. Upon opening the door, I observed a large group of men dressed in black, armed with guns.

“These men entered my room. They asked for a copy of my identification card and luggage, which I showed to them. Thereafter, without being shown a warrant, or being given an opportunity to make representation, despite numerous requests to do so, I was placed in handcuffs and dragged across the hotel floor to a waiting police vehicle which conveyed me to a police station.

“In a state of terror, I constantly enquired of the officers as to what was taking place but I was not given an answer. Instead, I was put in a small cage at the back of a police van and left there until midday. The van was parked outside a police station and was exposed to the elements. At some points, during this fresh ordeal, I intermittently lost consciousness. My pleas for food, water, and to place a telephone call were refused. No explanation was given as to why I was being detained by the Barbadian authorities.”

By then he had spent several hours in the “cage” exposed to the sunlight, and sweltering heat and was not given any food or water. Around midday, he was taken to Grantley Adams International Airport, where he was “pushed violently” into an “extremely small plane” and brought back to Trinidad.

In their pre-action letter, Thomas’ attorneys said the inhumane conditions he was detained in Barbados caused him emotional trauma, anguish and immediate fear and anxiety for his life.(NewsdayTT)

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