All traffic charges against Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls and his driver PC Sean Simon were yesterday dismissed. Senior Magistrate Lucina Cardenas-Ragoonanan, presiding in the Port-of-Spain Four B Magistrate's Court, ruled that at the time of an accident in February, this year, Simon did in fact have a valid certificate of insurance. She said as a result of this Simon and McNicolls were found not guilty of the charges laid against them.
McNicolls was charged with permitting Simon with driving his (McNicolls') vehicle without a valid certificate of insurance while Simon had been charged with driving the vehicle without insurance. Cardenas-Ragoonanan based her ruling on new evidence by defence attorneys Ian Benjamin and Israel Khan, SC, who represented both men. Benjamin submitted into evidence Simon's insurance policy, pointing out that at the time of the accident it permitted him to drive not only his own vehicle but another private car.
"Simon's policy of insurance allows him to drive any other motor vehicle and his policy confirms that he was covered," Benjamin said. He said the effective date of Simon's insurance included the period in which the accident occurred. He said the inquiries conducted in the matter involving his clients were not done diligently and were incomplete as Simon's certificate of insurance was not asked for. But, State prosecutor Renuka Rambhagan argued that Simon would have been covered by his policy in relation to a private vehicle not a T-registered vehicle, which was used for transporting goods, according to regulations. "Whether a vehicle carries a T or P, it is what it (is) used for," Cardenas-Ragoonanan said.
In making her ruling the magistrate noted that, according to her research, there was no such thing as an automatic renewal of an insurance policy. In previous hearings Khan and Benjamin argued that their clients were not supposed to be charged as an automatic renewal was in effect. They said this meant that McNicoll's insurance policy was up to date. Cardenas-Ragoonanan added that on the date of the accident there was no valid certificate of insurance. However, she said, based on the new evidence, Simon did have a valid policy of insurance. On these grounds she dismissed the case against him. She said as a result of Simon being found not guilty of not having a policy enforced, McNicolls will be found not guilty as well.
The charges against them stemmed from an accident on February 20, in which a vehicle driven by a Mt Hope woman collided with McNicolls' Mitsubishi L 200. The woman reported the incident to the Belmont Police Station while Simon made a report to the Princes Town Police Station later that night. Cpl Rakesh Ramsook of the Belmont Police Station laid the charges.