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Motorist to get $6m after cop wrongfully had vehicle seized

Published:Friday | October 29, 2021 | 12:11 AMBarbara Gayle/Contributor

The Government is to pay $5.8 million with interest to a motorist whose minibus was seized by the police on January 18, 2020, because he refused to pay a wrecker fee of $18,000.

Following the seizure of his Toyota Coaster bus at the Three Miles intersection in Kingston 11, Ronald Thompson brought a suit in the Supreme Court against the attorney general and a Constable Anderson, who had seized his bus.

Thompson said in court documents that the policeman, who was dressed in uniform, stopped him. He came out of the vehicle and noticed a wrecker parked nearby.

After inspecting the vehicle documents, the policeman then demanded that Thompson pay $18,000 in wrecker fees or his vehicle would be seized. Thompson told him that he had no money to pay him. The vehicle was placed on the wrecker and driven away.

Thompson said he was not charged with any breach of the Road Traffic Act or any offence that would warrant the seizure.

The next day, Thompson went to the Olympic Gardens Police Station, where he saw Constable Anderson and demanded his vehicle and the related documents. Thompson said the policeman again demanded the wrecker fee before the vehicle could be released.

Thompson retained the services of attorney-at-law Dr Garth Lyttle, who, on January 23 last year, wrote to a senior police officer and to Constable Anderson demanding the return of the vehicle. However, the request was not granted .

In the suit, which was filed on February 24 last year, Thompson sought $10 million in compensation for loss of use of the vehicle. The vehicle was subsequently returned following a Supreme Court order made on November 9 that year.

Lawyers from the Attorney General’s Department opposed the amount being sought for compensation.

Acting Supreme Court Judge Tania Mott Tulloch-Reid assessed damages in the matter and last month ordered that the defendants pay $5.8 million for loss of income, with interest at three per cent from January 29, 2020, to September 29, 2021.

Legal costs were also awarded to the claimant.

Commenting on the case Thursday, Lyttle said that he considered the incident a flagrant breach of the law.

“The only time the police who break the law will understand and take heed is when they are compelled to pay a part of the judgment money,” he said.