Costly mistake! - Government to pay millions in compensation after motorist waits six years for police to release truck wrongfully seized
Haulage contractor Osbourne Smith of Portmore, St Catherine, is demanding millions of dollars in compensation from the Jamaican government after waiting over the last six years for the return of a Leyland truck which was wrongfully seized by the police, who alleged that it had been stolen.
"I feel like a prisoner serving a life sentence for a crime I did not commit," said Smith, as he told our news team of the challenges he has faced since the seizure of his truck.
When the truck was seized in May 2011, Smith had a contract with GraceKennedy to deliver goods. He said he used the contract to get a bank loan to purchase the vehicle.
Smith said he lost that contract because the police refused to release his truck although the relevant documents were presented to them.
"I am extremely disappointed in the system because it is six years now and I am getting no form of redress," said Smith.
"I don't know how I maintain my sanity in this situation," said Smith, as he declared that he wants the truck returned speedily plus compensation for the loss of use so that he can move on with his life.
Smith noted that even without the use of his truck he had to repay the bank loan with interest payments, and has done this.
He said the ordeal started on May 31, 2011 when he received a call from the police to go to the garage where he had left his truck for a new body to be fitted to it.
When he went to the garage, he said he saw a large number of police personnel and he was ordered to drive his truck to a police station.
According to Smith, he called the dealer, Neville Robinson, who travelled to the police station with all the documents to show that the truck was purchased from a Leyland dealer in England.
After months of pleading with the police to return his truck, Smith and Robinson filed a suit against the attorney general and others. They contended that the police wrongfully and without reasonable and probable cause seized, detained and continue to detain the truck.
In court documents, the men said the incident damaged their reputation. Robinson also applied to the court for damages for false arrest, as he claimed he was handcuffed for more than an hour before he was released.
In response to the suit, the Attorney General's Office filed a defence in the Supreme Court arguing that the truck was tampered with, and produced a forensic report which the claimants challenged on the grounds that it was deficient.
Smith received a court order for an independent forensic analyst to examine the truck, and that report stated that there was no tampering and only one digit in the engine number was unclear but that seemed to be a factory fault.
Almost a year
The claimants told the court that it took almost a year for the independent forensic report to be done as the police were never available.
Attorney-at-law Melrose Reid, who is representing Smith and Robinson, said the case dragged on for such a long time and it was just last year that lawyers from the Attorney General's Department decided to settle.
According to Reid, there was an agreement for Robinson to be compensated for being falsely arrested, but it is now one year and the money has not been paid to him.
She said just recently the State asked Smith to submit expenses for the truck for the past six years so that the amount can be deducted from what is to be paid for loss of use of the truck.
Reid argued that this is a new delay tactic because it is known that the truck was never used by the owner after it was purchased.
"Is there justice for all in Jamaica? Reid asked, as she commented on what she described as the injustices that were meted out to her clients.
The attorney charged that it is of concern that the police can seize a motor vehicle and despite all the proof presented by the owner, still hold on to it.
"This case shows how taxpayers' money goes down the drain because, despite the delay and the challenges and frustrations, Smith and Robinson will have to be compensated by the State," added Reid.