Melan Garcia v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago

JurisdictionTrinidad & Tobago
JudgeMr. Justice Robin N. Mohammed
Judgment Date25 October 2023
Neutral CitationTT 2023 HC 334
Docket NumberCV2020-03307
CourtHigh Court (Trinidad and Tobago)
Melan Garcia
The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago

The Honourable Mr. Justice Robin N. Mohammed




Ms Leandra Ramcharan for the Claimant

Mr Ebo Jones instructed by Mr Ryan Grant for the Defendant


By Claim Form and Statement of Case filed on October 12 th 2020, the Claimant instituted proceedings against the Defendant for inter alia, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution following the dismissal of charges laid against him in January 2004 by the Magistrates' Court on 12 th October 2016. The Claimant thus sought the following reliefs against the Defendant:

  • 1. An Order/Declaration that the arrest of the Claimant on January 7 th 2004 by the Police Officers of the TTPS acting as servants/agents of the Defendant was wrongful, illegal and null, void and of no effect.

  • 2. An Order/Declaration that the imprisonment of the Claimant by Police Officers of the TTPS acting as servants/agents of the Defendant subsequent to his arrest was illegal and null, void and of no effect.

  • 3. An Order/Declaration that the charging and prosecution of the Claimant by a Police Officer of the TTPS acting as servants/agents of the Defendant was illegal and null, void and of no effect.

  • 4. General and Special Damages (including aggravated and/or exemplary damages).

  • 5. Interest.

  • 6. Costs.

  • 7. Such further and/or other relief as the Court deems fit.


On February 25 th 2021, the Defendant entered an appearance in the matter. Subsequently, the Defendant made two requests for extensions of time to file their Defence which were granted. However, no Defence was filed.


On August 23 rd 2021, the Claimant filed an Amended Statement of Case and the Defendant sought and was granted an extension of time until September 7 th 2021 to file its Defence. To date, no Defence has been filed.


Accordingly, by Notice of Application filed on April 1 st 2022, the Claimant sought the permission of the Court to enter Judgment in Default of Defence against the Defendant pursuant to Part 12.2(2)(a) of the Civil Proceedings Rules 1998 (CPR).


On January 25 th 2023, the Defendant filed its own application to strike out part of the claim with no affidavit in support as it relates to the claims of false imprisonment and wrongful arrest as well as the constitutional reliefs sought as they were an abuse of process. The Defendant contends that the claims for false imprisonment and wrongful arrest are statute-barred and constitutional reliefs sought were unattainable due to the Claimant's non-compliance with Part 56.7 of the CPR for claims for administrative orders. With respect to the remaining claims, the Defendant sought an extension of time to file its Defence.


Following from these applications, the Court considers that there are two main issues for determination, specifically, (i) whether the Court should enter default judgment on the claim in favour of the Claimant, and (ii) whether the Claimant's claim or part thereof should be struck out for abuse of process.

Default Judgment

Part 12.4 of the CPR outlines the circumstances under which default judgment is generally granted. It states:

“At the request of the claimant the court office must enter judgment for failure to defend if—

  • (a) the court office is satisfied that the claim form and statement of case have been served; or

  • (b) an appearance has been entered; and

  • (c) the period for filing a defence has expired;

  • (d) the defendant—

    • i. has not served a defence to the claim or any part of it;

    • ii. where the only claim is for a specified sum of money, has not filed or served on the claimant an admission of liability to pay all of the money claimed, together with a request for time to pay it; or

    • iii. has not satisfied the claim on which the claimant seeks judgment; and

  • (e) (where necessary) the claimant has the permission of the court to enter judgment.”


Part 12.2 (2) CPR states that where the State has failed to file their defence within the allotted time, a Claimant must seek the permission of the Court if he wishes to obtain default judgment on a claim which is against the State. In the Court's exercise of its discretion in determining such an application for default judgment against the State, I must give effect to the overriding objective.


On examination of the history of these proceedings, it is evident that the Defendant has fallen far short of demonstrating that they are intent on dealing with this case expeditiously. Several extensions of time to file a defence were requested and granted to them yet they have failed to date to file same.


In fact, a further extension of time to put in a defence is sought as a relief under this application but no affidavit in support has been filed to explain the reason for the delay or indicate when the defence can be filed. After almost three years since the commencement of this matter, it is expected that by now the Defendant should have a defence to place before the Court but this does not appear to be the case.


In circumstances, this would appear to be a clear case for the Court to grant default judgment. However, I found the Defendant's arguments for striking out the claim at least in part to be compelling and worthy of examination.

Striking out

Under CPR 26.2 (1) (b), the Court has the power to strike out a statement of case or any part thereof if it appears to the court that the statement of case or part thereof is an abuse of the process of the court.


In Brian Ali v The Attorney General CV2014–02843 the Court set out the following guiding principles on application to strike out:

12. The principles in striking out a statement of case are clear. A court will only seek to strike out a claim pursuant to Rule 26.2(1)(c) of the CPR 1998 as amended on the basis that it discloses no ground for bringing the claim. The language and wording of our Rule 26.2(1) is very generous in that so long as the Statement of Case discloses a ground for bringing the claim, it ought not to be struck out. See UTT v Ken Julien and ors CV2013–00212.

13. It is a draconian measure and is to be sparingly exercised always weighing in the balance the right of the Claimant to have his matter heard and the right of the Defendant not to be burdened by frivolous and unmeritorious litigation. The Court in the exercise of its discretion to strike out a claim must always ensure to give effect to the overriding objective. See: Real Time Systems Ltd v Renraw Investment Ltd Civ. App. 238 of 2011.


In Rivulet Investment Group Ltd v Arabco Co Ltd and Ors CV2019–03986 the law with respect to abuse of process outlined at paragraphs 32–34 of that judgment thus:

[32] The term “abuse of the Court's process” is neither defined in the CPR 1998 nor the English Counterpart nor any in practice direction. Lord Bingham in Attorney General v Barker1 albeit in a different context, explained “abuse of the Court's process” as “using that process for a purpose or in a way significantly different from its ordinary and proper use”. I am of the view that this is a fitting explanation for the concept of “abuse of the process of the Court”.

[33] The categories of abuse of process are many and are not closed or exhaustive. The Court has the power to strike out a prima facie valid claim where there is abuse of process. However, there has to be an abuse and striking out has to be supportive of the overriding objective. Jamadar J (as he then was) in the case of Danny Balkissoon v Roopnarine Persaud & Another stated as follows:

“While the categories of abuse of the process of the Court are many and depend on the particular circumstances of any case, it is established that they include: (i) litigating issues which have been investigated and decided in a prior case; (ii) inordinate and inexcusable delay, and (iii) oppressive litigation conducted with no real intention to bring it to a conclusion.”

[34] From The White Book 2013, Civil Procedure Volume 1, Part 3: The Court's Case Management Powers, under the heading, Power to Strike out a Statement of Case and Blackstone's Civil Practice 2016, Part H: Interim Applications, under the heading Abuse of Process, the following categories of abuse of the process of the Court have been recognised in case law: (i) vexatious proceedings; (ii) attempts to re-litigate decided issues; (iii) collateral attacks upon earlier decisions; (iv) pointless and wasteful litigation; (v) improper collateral purpose; and (vi) delay.”


The Defendant argues that it is an abuse of the Court's process for the Claimant to institute claims founded in tort, specifically the claims for false imprisonment and wrongful arrest long after the...

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