Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago v Ramanoop: PC 23 Mar 2005

(Trinidad and Tobago) A police officer had unjustifiably roughed up, arrested, taken to the police station and locked up Mr Ramanoop, who now sought constitutional redress, including exemplary damages. He did not claim damages for the nominate torts that had certainly been committed. Counsel for the Attorney General submitted that constitutional redress, in so far as it took the form of an award of damages, should be confined to compensatory damages.
Held: The Board upheld the award of vindicatory damages in respect of the officers serious misbehaviour, though these were not exemplary damages or awarded for any punitive purpose.
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead said: ‘Their Lordships view the matter as follows. Section 14 recognises and affirms the court’s power to award remedies for contravention of chapter I rights and freedoms. This jurisdiction is an integral part of the protection chapter I of the Constitution confers on the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. It is an essential element in the protection intended to be afforded by the Constitution against misuse of state power. Section 14 presupposes that, by exercise of this jurisdiction, the court will be able to afford the wronged citizen effective relief in respect of the state’s violation of a constitutional right. This jurisdiction is separate from and additional to (‘without prejudice to’) all other remedial jurisdiction of the court.
. . When exercising this constitutional jurisdiction the court is concerned to uphold, or vindicate, the constitutional right which has been contravened. A declaration by the court will articulate the fact of the violation, but in most cases more will be required than words. If the person wronged has suffered damage, the court may award him compensation. The comparable common law measure of damages will often be a useful guide in assessing the amount of compensation. But this measure is no more than a guide because the award of compensation under section 14 is discretionary and moreover, the violation of the constitutional right will not always be coterminous with the cause of action at law.
An award of compensation will go some distance towards vindicating the infringed constitutional right. How far it goes will depend on the circumstances, but in principle it may well not suffice. The fact that the right violated was a constitutional right adds an extra dimension to the wrong. An additional award, not necessarily of substantial size, may be needed to reflect the sense of public outrage, emphasise the importance of the constitutional right and the gravity of the breach, and deter further breaches. All these elements have a place in this additional award. ‘Redress’ in section 14 is apt to encompass such an award if the court considers it is required having regard to all the circumstances. Although such an award, where called for, is likely in most cases to cover much the same ground in financial terms as would an award by way of punishment in the strict sense of retribution, punishment in the latter sense is not its object. Accordingly, the expressions ‘punitive damages’ or ‘exemplary damages’ are better avoided as descriptions of this type of additional award . . For these reasons their Lordships are unable to accept the Attorney General’s basic submission that a monetary award under section 14 is confined to an award of compensatory damages in the traditional sense. Bereaux J stated his jurisdiction too narrowly. The matter should be remitted to him, or another judge, to consider whether an additional award of damages of the character described above is appropriate in this case. Their Lordships dismiss this appeal with costs.’


Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead


[2005] UKPC 15, [2005] 2 WLR 1324, [2006] 1 AC 328


Bailii, PC


England and Wales


CitedHarrikissoon v Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago PC 1980
(Trinidad and Tobago) The appellant teacher alleged that he had been transferred from one school to another without proper notice and as punishment. The appellant instead of following a laid out procedure which would have eventually led to a . .

Cited by:

CitedMerson v Cartwright, The Attorney General PC 13-Oct-2005
(Bahamas) The defendant police had appealed the quantum of damages awarded to the claimant for assault and battery and false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, saying that she had been doubly compensated. The claimant now appealed reduction of . .
CitedAshley and Another v Chief Constable of Sussex Police HL 23-Apr-2008
The claimants sought to bring an action for damages after a family member suspected of dealing drugs, was shot by the police. At the time he was naked. The police officer had been acquitted by a criminal court of murder. The chief constable now . .
CitedSubiah v The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago PC 3-Nov-2008
(Trinidad and Tobago) The Board considered the extent of damages for infringement of the claimant’s constitutional rights. He had been on board a bus. He complained when a policeman was allowed not to buy a ticket. The same constable arrested him as . .
CitedTakitota v the Attorney General and others PC 18-Mar-2009
(Bahamas) The applicant a tourist had been wrongfully detained in appalling conditions in the Bahamas for over eight years after he lost his documents. He now appealed against an award of $500,000 dollars compensation.
Held: ‘it would not be . .
CitedLumba (WL) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 23-Mar-2011
The claimants had been detained under the 1971 Act, after completing sentences of imprisonment pending their return to their home countries under deportations recommended by the judges at trial, or chosen by the respondent. They challenged as . .
CitedTakitota v The Attorney General and Others PC 18-Mar-2009
Bahamas – The claimant appeald as to the amount of compensation awarded to him for his unlawful detention for over eight years, in appalling prison conditions. The Court of Appeal categorised his treatment not only as ‘less than humane’ but as a . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Damages, Police, Constitutional

Updated: 29 August 2022; Ref: scu.223876