Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Released St Mary teen could sue State for terrorism claims

Published:Thursday | April 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Now that he has been released into the custody of his father, the St Mary teenager who was arrested on terrorism-related suspicions may have grounds for civil action against the State.

Attorney for the teen, Zara Lewis, told The Gleaner yesterday she has advised her client that she will be referring him to a civil specialist so that he can pursue a civil case.

Canvassing the views of attorneys and human-rights advocates, The Gleaner has learnt that there is a general consensus that the circumstance surrounding the arrest of the teen is cause for concern.

Attorney-at-Law Nigel Jones, commenting on the release of the teen, said he found the arrest to be bizarre in the first instance.

"Based on what I have heard, it's a very strange situation, almost bizarre, and the gentleman upon taking sound legal advice may very well file a claim against the state," Jones said.

He went on to explain that the teen could seek redress for the lengthy period of time he was held in custody.

"There may be the possibility of him seeking constitutional redress and to attempt to obtain substantial compensation for the time that he was incarcerated and subject to such treatment by the State," he added.

false imprisonment cases

Jones also said the arrest of the teen points to a worrying trend of run-of-the-mill false imprisonment cases in Jamaica.

"In Jamaica, we have this culture where once we see something which is seemingly irregular, the tendency is to incarcerate and ask for the parties to prove their innocence, so it's no longer innocent until proven guilty," Jones said.

One member of the legal fraternity has pointed to the problem of the police exceeding the 48 hours allowed for holding a citizen because they have not completed investigations.

Hadrian Christie, in an email response to The Gleaner, said: "We must acknowledge that there is a balance to be struck between national security and fundamental rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, the members of the security forces at times step beyond the parameters set by Parliament for the sake of 'national security'."

He added: "Respectfully, that should not be their decision to make in circumstances where the law provides them with no discretion."

Commenting in her role as a human-rights advocate, Susan Goffe said an account of what led to the arrest needs to be made public, as it could have happened to anyone.

"There are several questions to be raised about where, in fact, was he housed and under what conditions. It is also necessary to raise issue about the length of time for the detention. At one point, there seems to be a transition from him being a suspect to him being viewed as a victim and one needs to look at how that happened," she said.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com