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Cops make woman strip at roadblock
The State yesterday admitted it had no defence to a lawsuit brought by a Valencia woman, who was stripped and searched in full view of motorists during a roadblock exercise more than nine years ago. Justice Sebastian Ventour will rule in a subsequent hearing on the quantum of damages to be awarded to Clothilda Madoo. As he entered a default judgment in favour of the claimant yesterday, Ventour was critical of the conduct of the police, describing the incident as “very disturbing.” Justice Ventour, who heard the facts of the case for the first time yesterday, listened in disbelief.
He asked: “All her clothes except her brassiere? At 10.30 in the morning? All her clothes, Mr (Neil) Byam? And the State is not defending?” The victim, 51, a mother of nine, of 156 Valencia Old Road, Valencia, was arrested on January 4, 2001, and taken to a roadblock at the junction of Valencia Old Road and Toco Main Road, where she was ordered to strip down to her bra. Lawyers representing the State conceded they could not defend the lawsuit for unlawful arrest and assault filed by attorneys for Madoo — Ravi Heffes-Doon and Kern Saney. The State had initially claimed that the alleged incident never took place. However, State counsel Neil Byam informed the judge that police officers who gave statements in the matter had not returned to sign them, effectively rendering the statements inadmissible for the defence.
Ventour was appalled and sought answers for the actions of the police officers involved. “It’s unbelievable. How can this be?” he asked. “I can’t believe this Mr Byam, I really can’t. It is horrendous.” He said the officers committed acts which were “unlawful” and didn’t bother to sign statements they had given. “I have to say this from the bench, they are playing the fool,” he said. Justice Ventour asked whether the officers’ reluctance to sign these statements had been reported to the relevant authorities. “Did you write to the Commissioner of Police about this?” he asked the State attorney. Byam said he had not. On the day of the incident, Madoo was accompanying her common-law husband, Christopher Sorzano, on a visit to a relative in Vega, Sangre Grande. When they were near the roadblock, Sorzano stopped his Mazda 626 turned back for home. Within minutes, police officers arrived to their home and literally dragged Madoo back to the roadblock area.There, she was told to strip and was left with only her brassiere on. The officer said that was only because it was “see through.”
Afterwards, the officer instructed her to squat. During this time, motorists drove slowly past the roadblock and saw the naked woman. In her statement to her attorneys, Madoo said she felt “very embarrassed, disgraced and humiliated” at the way she was searched by the officers. To make matters worse, when she was released from the Sangre Grande Police Station later that day, one of the police officers told her to wear better underwear. At that time, Madoo was 41-years-old and earned her living by humble means as a gardener. Ventour ordered that written submissions on the award of damages be submitted by the claimant, no later that January 7. The State was ordered to respond by January 14.
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