I want my money by Christmas!
Seven years after court orders State to pay $1m for false arrest, destitute man yet to collect one cent
Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
Forced to seek shelter in a golden age home, 75-year-old Fitzgerald McTavish is angry, disappointed and depressed. For the past seven years, McTavish has watched his life change for the worse while he awaits the outcome of an appeal filed by the Government against a $1-million award granted to him by the Supreme Court for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
"You think I can get some money by Christmas," a barefooted McTavish asked our news team when we visited him at the Vineyard Town Golden Age Home last Friday.
But that is highly unlikely, as the certified copy of the record of proceedings, notes of evidence, and reasons for judgment have not been presented to the Court of Appeal despite several letters sent from its registry to the registrar of the Supreme Court over the last seven years.
An Appeal Court source last week claimed that several letters sent to the Supreme Court for the documents have not been answered.
According to the source, the first letter was sent in September 2007. Letters were sent in 2009, twice in 2010, 2011, 2012, twice in 2013 and as recent as March 24.
The source, whose name is being withheld, said there were several other appeals which are being delayed because the Appeal Court is having difficulty getting the relevant documents from the Supreme Court.
Delivering that news to McTavish was painful as the civil engineering contractor queried where is the justice for him.
'Ruined my life'
According to McTavish, his life has taken a downward trajectory ever since he was arrested by Detective Corporal Colin Campbell in January 1993.
"This case has really ruined my life," said McTavish. "I was in custody for five months and I went to court 48 times."
The allegation against him was that he was in possession of counterfeit US$5,500 but he said it was not true because it was genuine notes he had.
On January 5, 1993, McTavish was selling the US dollars to a cambio in Port Antonio, Portland, where the operator tested them, and satisfied that they were genuine started disbursing the Jamaican equivalent.
However, some persons in the cambio charged that the US dollars were counterfeit. Campbell, who was next door at a bar, came over and arrested him.
McTavish said at the time of his arrest he had a contract with a major utility company valued at $350,000, which he lost while in custody.
When he was taken before Resident Magistrate C.B. Lawrence the case was dismissed, and according to McTavish, "the magistrate advised me to sue immediately for malicious prosecution, which I did".
"The Supreme Court ruled in my favour and I was awarded damages in April 2007. I figure that the amount I was awarded, with interest, has grown to at least $4.8 million by now. I have not received even one cent of the award that was made to me."
To compound the matter, the US$5,500, which was taken from him, was ordered returned by the court but McTavish said that has also not been done.
"Where is the justice in my situation?" asked the proud man who has seen his fortune dwindle since his arrest.
Has to wait on appeal
McTavish was represented by attorney-at-law Bert Samuels in the civil suit which was filed in 1998 in the Supreme Court.
Last week, Samuels noted that once the attorney general files an appeal there is an automatic stay of execution, which means that McTavish will not be able to get any of the $1 million ordered by the court until the appeal has been determined or withdrawn.
Attorney-at-law Maurice Frankson, who is representing McTavish in the appeal, disclosed that the civil suit was tried by Mr Justice Roy Jones, who had since resigned and left the jurisdiction.
According to Frankson, he made enquiries about the notes of evidence in the case and Samuels said he had no notes, and the lawyers for the attorney general said they had none.
He noted that without the notes of evidence, the appeal cannot go forward. Frankson added that when he asked lawyers from the Attorney General's Department what they were doing about the matter, he was told that they had a good appeal and they were pursuing it.
Frankson said he emailed Chief Justice Zaila McCalla a few weeks ago asking for her assistance in producing the notes of the court proceedings, but if she cannot help, then, "my next option is go to the Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, QC, and ask him to intervene on the basis of humanitarian grounds".