Costly lock-up - Court awards $225,000 for wrongful detention
FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND dollars for one hour and $100,000 for four and a half hours – this was part of the $225,000 awarded to a former delivery man for false imprisonment after a high court judge found last month that he was held in police custody for more than five hours on a charge that was later dismissed by a lower court.
Winston Hemans was also awarded $80,000 for malicious prosecution in a civil suit he filed against the State arising from an incident at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston in July 2005.
Justice Evan Brown, however, dismissed Hemans’ claim for aggravated or exemplary damages against the arresting officer, identified as Constable Andrew Anderson.
“There was ... nothing in the circumstances of the arrest of the claimant [Hemans], whether at the arrival area [at NMIA] or at the police station, that suggested that the first defendant [Anderson] behaved in a highhanded, insulting, malicious or oppressive manner,” Brown wrote in his ruling.
Hemans claimed, in court documents, that he parked his motor car at the NMIA on July 19, 2005, and was heading to the arrival area to deliver a package when he was approached from behind by Anderson and asked to go with him to the police station located at the airport.
The former delivery man said when he got there, he was arrested and charged with the offence of failing to leave the airport. Hemans said he was placed in custody and remained there until he was granted bail some time after 6 o’clock that evening.
After three court appearances between July and August that year, prosecutors decided to drop the charge against him in September.
But Anderson, in his witness statement, said he saw Hemans at the arrival west terminal area – clad in blue jeans and a white shirt – illegally soliciting passengers and collecting money. Anderson claimed that he advised the delivery man that he was committing an offence and ordered him to leave the airport.
“Upon being so ordered, the claimant walked away,” the constable said.
HELD FOR FAILING TO LEAVE AIRPORT
However, he said that later that day, he again saw Hemans soliciting passengers at the airport, and it was at that time that he decided to arrest him for failing to leave the airport. Anderson said a search of the delivery man after the arrest revealed “money the claimant told him was collected from soliciting passengers”.
Brown, after hearing both sides, said the question became whether Hemans was the person Anderson spoke to earlier that day.
“Did he [Anderson] make a mistake? In his witness statement, the first defendant [Anderson] described the person he told to leave the airport as a man dressed in blue jeans and a shirt. However, in the entry made ... in [the] station diary, the first defendant described the claimant [Hemans] as a man dressed in black pants and a blue shirt,” Brown noted.
“The first defendant did not say anything to the claimant aside from asking the claimant to accompany him to the police station, although the claimant required of him a reason. He, thereby, robbed himself of the opportunity to confirm his earlier observations and ground his action in law,” the judge continued.
Brown also raised questions about the constable’s claim in his witness statement that the person he warned about soliciting passengers at the airport walked away. He said an entry in the station diary revealed that “that person was escorted to the bus stop”.
“This is the incongruity ... neither account made any reference to the claimant’s [Hemans] car, which he, admittedly, had at the airport. It strains the limits of the imagination to accept that the claimant would have walked with the first defendant to the bus stop without once mentioning that he had his own mode of transportation to leave the airport,” Brown underscored.