Court awards $1.5m to cop cleared of corruption charges
A HIGH Court judge has ordered the Government to pay nearly $1.5 million to a policeman who had a corruption case against him dismissed in 2010.
The award by Justice Kissock Laing was handed down last month in a lawsuit filed against the State by then Constable Rennon Walker for malicious prosecution.
Walker was arrested and charged in November 2008 with two counts of breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act. He was accused of corruptly soliciting $23,000 and $8,000 from two St Catherine residents to avoid prosecution.
The case included evidence that Walker, who has since been promoted to corporal, narrowly escaped a sting operation set up by the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) when he went to the home of a St Catherine woman to collect the $8,000.
Then Inspector of Police Leon Clunis, who was in charge of the ACB's Proactive Unit, gave evidence that the operation was arranged after the St Catherine woman informed him of the $23,000 payment to two policemen attached to the Spanish Town Police Station and that arrangements were made for them to return and collect $8,000.
In court documents obtained by The Gleaner, Clunis gave evidence that two policemen arrived at the woman's home about 6 o'clock in a service vehicle dressed in full uniform. According to him, the woman came to the vehicle and handed something to the driver, then returned to her home.
Clunis described a tense stand-off with the two cops as members of his team swooped in to make the arrest. He testified that one of the policemen continued pointing a firearm at members of his team in a menacing manner although he had identified himself as an inspector of police attached to the ACB.
However, according to the court documents, Walker provided a completely different account of the incident. He acknowledged going to the woman's home in Eltham Park a day after two people were held in the Spanish Town area with what appeared to be a cloned licence plate.
He explained that he and his colleague went there to speak to the woman, who had agreed to help them track down the man who sold them the vehicle. Walker's evidence was that he spoke briefly to the woman's mother and was about to leave when a Honda motor car crashed into his service vehicle.
OUT OF CAUTION
Walker recounted pulling his service pistol "out of caution" and taking cover beside his police car before he heard a loud explosion behind him and turned to see a man with a firearm in his hand. He recalled running to a nearby house to take cover because he was afraid he was being ambushed by thugs.
Walker was charged following a ruling by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, but in April 2010, the charges were dismissed on a no-case submission.
However, Justice Laing, in his ruling, said Walker had failed to prove, "on a balance of probabilities", that Clunis "was actuated by malice or acted without reasonable or probable cause" when he laid charges against him.
"I have found on a balance of probabilities that the account of the First Defendant [Clunis] is more credible and that the presence of the claimant [Walker] at Eltham on the evening of 3rd October 2008 was further to an arrangement he had made with [name withheld] to collect the balance of $8,000 from her, pursuant to an unlawful solicitation," Laing wrote.
"I also find that the claimant did accept the marked Jamaican currency notes and ran from the First Defendant and his team after they had clearly identified themselves to him as police officers. I find that he ran not because he was fearful that he was being confronted by gunmen, but rather, out of a realisation of guilt," the judge continued.
Laing, however, pointed out that there was no evidence to show the basis on which Clunis arrived at the conclusion that Walker had solicited or obtained money from the second persons named in the indictment.
"Counsel [for Walker] submitted that in order to succeed on the claim, the claimant need only prove that there was no reasonable and probable basis on one of the two informations [in the indictment]. I accept these submissions as a correct statement of the law and accordingly find for the claimant," Laing ruled.
As a result, Walker was awarded general damages of $900,000 with interest at three per cent per annum from April 2010 and special damages of $400,750 with interest at three per cent per annum from November 2008 .