Matadai Roopnarine v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Hamblen
Judgment Date27 July 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] UKPC 30
CourtPrivy Council
Docket NumberPrivy Council Appeal No 0057 of 2022
Matadai Roopnarine
Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago
(Respondent) (Trinidad and Tobago) and Tobago

[2023] UKPC 30


Lord Hodge

Lord Lloyd-Jones

Lord Hamblen

Lord Leggatt

Lady Rose

Privy Council Appeal No 0057 of 2022

Privy Council

Trinity Term

From the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Trinidad


Anand Ramlogan SC

Kate O'Raghallaigh

Adam Riley

(Instructed by Robert Abdool-Mitchell of Freedom Law Chambers (San Fernando, Trinidad))


Robert Strang

(Instructed by Charles Russell Speechlys LLP (London))

Heard on 7 June 2023

Lord Hamblen

This appeal concerns what is necessary to establish a case of malicious prosecution and whether the courts below were wrong to hold that no such case had been made out on the evidence in the present case.

The factual background

On 5 February 2000 the appellant, Mr Matadai Roopnarine, was charged with conspiring with others in September 1999 to forge documents in relation to the grant of bail for Gason Pierre, a person charged with drug trafficking offences.


On 13 February 2000 at Scarborough Magistrates' Court, Tobago, the appellant pleaded not guilty to the charges and bail was set in the sum of TT$500,000. The appellant was remanded in custody for seven months before he was able to obtain bail.


Between 2003 and 2005 the appellant appeared in the Magistrates' Court at various hearings of the preliminary inquiry. During those hearings evidence was given by police witnesses Corporal Mohammed (who had laid the charges against the appellant), Senior Superintendent Piggott (SS Piggott) and Assistant Superintendent Boyd (AS Boyd).


In early 2008 Corporal Mohammed died. On 14 April 2008, before the preliminary inquiry had been concluded, notices of discontinuance were filed at the Magistrates' Court by the Director of Public Prosecutions.


On 3 May 2011 the appellant issued a claim for malicious prosecution against the respondent Attorney General, as representative of the State. The particulars of claim alleged that: (i) the police had concocted or fabricated evidence against him; (ii) they had failed to investigate the matter properly; (iii) they had attempted to introduce false evidence at the trial; (iv) Corporal Mohammed had failed to conduct proper or sufficient enquiries and had allowed him to be prosecuted based on insufficient or concocted evidence, and had continued the prosecution despite the lack of credible or sufficient evidence; (v) evidence was given in the knowledge that it was false; and (vi) the police acted recklessly in the arrest and prosecution of the appellant.


In the Attorney General's defence the following particulars of reasonable and probable cause for bringing the prosecution were provided:

“I. The Special Investigations Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department was set up in 1999 to probe the corrupt practices if Justices of the Peace and matters relating to the granting of bail. The Unit would review all documentation pertaining to the grant of bail, for example, protocol of deeds, recognisance of bail and other relevant documents.

II. Upon examining the paperwork relating to the grant of bail to Ian Cudjoe, Gason Pierre and Krishendath Hajarie, irregularities were noticed. There were three joint owners of the property namely, Samdaye Barlo, Balliram Ramlochan and Roopnarine Ramlochan and all of them would have to consent and stand bail. As a consequence, interviews were conducted and signed statements taken from Balliram Ramlochan and Roopnarine Ramlochan. They denied ever taking bail and denied they were the holders of said passports used in the procedure.

III. Additionally, Samdaye Barlo gave a statement that she was approached by Jason, a neighbour, who asked her for her identification card and deed and took her to Tobago without informing her of the reason for the trip. She said that he told her to sign pieces of paper but she did not know she was taking bail and neither of her brothers were with her. A true copy of a statutory declaration of Samdaye Barlo is hereto annexed and marked ‘C’.

IV. A Certificate of Analysis obtained from the Forensics Department concluded that it was probable that the questioned signatures ‘Balliram Ramlochan’ on the Oath Justifying Bail #2950/99, the Statutory Declaration and the Recognizance of Bail #2950/99 were executed by the Claimant.

V. Statements were also taken from Magistrate Ayres Caesar and Gail Frazer, Acting Assistant, Clerk of the Peace. Checks were made at the Immigration Department that showed the passport numbers attributed to Balliram Ramlochan and Roopnarine Ramfochan on the bail documents were false.”


In February 2012 the appellant and the respondent provided lists of documents. The respondent's list included notes of evidence from the preliminary inquiry.


In May 2012 witness statements of the appellant, SS Piggott and AS Boyd were filed.


The claim was heard in the High Court before Harris J on 19 March 2013. The appellant gave evidence and was cross-examined.


At trial the appellant gave evidence which was consistent with his statement of case and witness statement, which included the following:

(1) In or around October 1999 the appellant was approached by a friend, Kenneth Parmassar, who indicated that he knew someone in Tobago who needed help to secure bail.

(2) The appellant asked his friend, Kazim Azim Ali, for his help to secure bail for someone in Tobago, to which he agreed.

(3) Sometime later on a day that the appellant could not remember, the appellant visited Tobago with Kazim, Kenneth and Kenneth's wife and mother-in-law. Upon arrival in Tobago they visited Kentucky Fried Chicken where the appellant remained. The others proceeded to the Scarborough Magistrates' Court. After about two hours everyone returned. Kenneth gave the appellant TT$1,500 and the appellant and Kazim left and returned to Trinidad. He gave Kazim TT$800 and they went home. He never went to the Scarborough Magistrates' Court and never met the Justice of the Peace.

(4) In or about November 1999 the appellant was at home when three police officers visited him and advised that they were in possession of a search warrant. The officers searched the appellant's home for about 15 minutes. A few days later the appellant accompanied the officers to the Freeport Police Station where he was interviewed by Corporal Mohammed and was informed that he was being investigated for impersonating Balliram Ramlochan and Roopnarine Ramlochan. The appellant protested his innocence. He was asked to provide a hand-writing specimen which he duly did.

(5) On 5 February 2000 police officers once again searched the appellant's home, at or about 5:00 am, and refused to provide a search warrant.

(6) Later the same day, the appellant was arrested at his workplace at the Brechin Castle Sugar Factory and he was taken to the Port of Spain administration building, where he was questioned. He continued to protest his innocence. He was later charged with various conspiracy offences which, eight years later, were discontinued.


During cross-examination the appellant accepted that he helped to secure bail for a person named Gason Pierre.


At the close of the appellant's case the respondent made a successful submission of no case to answer, having elected to call no evidence, and the claim was dismissed.

The decisions of the lower courts

In the written reasons for his decision, the judge, directing himself by reference to the House of Lords decision in Glinski v McIver [1962] AC 726 (“ Glinski”), identified the issue which he had to determine as being “whether what was before the prosecutor, could have led the prosecutor to ‘reasonably have concluded’ … that there was reasonable and probable cause to proceed with the matter”. He found that the appellant had not made out a prima facie case of no reasonable and probable cause, observing that the appellant's evidence went to “show that he had explanation contrary to what's alleged against him and that he was innocent and knew nothing of what he was charged for” but not to showing lack of reasonable and probable cause. On that issue he found that “evidence has not been forthcoming” and so he was not in a position to make any determination. The claim was therefore dismissed.


Notice of Appeal was filed on 30 April 2013 but the appeal did not come on for hearing until 21 May 2021, over eight years later. On 20 October 2021 the Court of Appeal gave judgment dismissing the appeal by a majority (Pemberton and Lucky JJA; Smith JA dissenting).


Having looked at the evidence led by the appellant “at all angles”, the majority decided that the judge was entitled to conclude that there was insufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of lack of reasonable and probable cause. Their conclusion at para 65 was:

“…we too find that there was no circumstantial basis that could have been used to cross the threshold of ‘slender’ evidence. This is not a matter of a weak prima facie case, it was, as found by the trial judge, to be no prima facie case at all.”


The majority further decided that, since the appellant had failed to establish a prima facie case of lack of reasonable and probable cause, the allegation that the prosecution was actuated by malice must also fail.


In his dissenting judgment Smith JA reached a different conclusion on the evidence. He placed particular reliance upon the Board's decision in Gibbs v Rea [1998] AC 786 and the weight which can be placed on the silence of a defendant in circumstances calling for a response.

The legal framework
The tort of malicious prosecution

As stated in the Board's recent decision in Stuart v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [2022] UKPC 53, [2023] 4 WLR 21 (“ Stuart”) at para 1:

“The tort of malicious prosecution has five elements all of which must be proved...

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4 cases
  • Dexter Gaulteau v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago
    • Trinidad & Tobago
    • High Court (Trinidad and Tobago)
    • 20 September 2023
    ...of absence of reasonable and probable cause 19 This area of the tort was aptly stated by Lord Hamblen in Matadai Roopnarine v The AGTT [2023] UKPC 30, at paras 22–25. Thereafter, at 34, summarised as follows: “34. As made clear in the passages cited above from Clerk & Lindsell, Abrath and ......
  • Rawle McKenzie v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago
    • Trinidad & Tobago
    • High Court (Trinidad and Tobago)
    • 18 September 2023
    ...Spain. 3 The law on malicious prosecution is well settled and has recently been restated by the Privy Council in Matadai Roopnarine v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [2023] UKPC 30 and Stuart v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [2022] UKPC 53 at para 1. See also the decision......
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    • High Court (Trinidad and Tobago)
    • 13 October 2023
    ...this Court, is well-settled and has been most recently restated by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Matadai Roopnarine v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [2023] UKPC 30 at para 19 and Stuart v Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago [2022] UKPC 53 at para 1. The Court......
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    • St Lucia
    • High Court (Saint Lucia)
    • 19 December 2023
    ...Civ 1100 at paragraphs 17 to 20 3 Supra note 1 at paragraph 30 of the judgment 4 BVIHCVAP 2012/002 — delivered on 4 th October 2012 5 [2023] UKPC 30 6 See Exhibit 7 See TAB 2 of Trial Bundle 3 8 See Exhibit YJ3 9 See Exhibit YJ3 10 See Exhibit YJ4 11 See Exhibits YJ5 and YJ6 12 See Exhibit......

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