Fri | Mar 31, 2023

Cop in row with man maliciously arrests wife twice

Published:Saturday | October 9, 2021 | 12:08 AMBarbara Gayle - Contributor

It will take some time for businesswoman Etta May Kelly to overcome the trauma, stress and humiliation she suffered when she was falsely arrested twice in 2015. The businesswoman’s ordeal stemmed from an ongoing feud between her spouse and a...

It will take some time for businesswoman Etta May Kelly to overcome the trauma, stress and humiliation she suffered when she was falsely arrested twice in 2015.

The businesswoman’s ordeal stemmed from an ongoing feud between her spouse and a policewoman.

Kelly, who exports manufactured products such as car parts and processed food to the Cayman Islands, was at the Norman Manley International Airport on March 3, 2015 doing her usual export business when she was informed by Special District Constable Janet Grant that she was being arrested for failing to leave the airport. She was taken to the police station, where she was detained for about an hour and then charged.

Kelly was again at the airport at 6:45 a.m. on May 20, 2015 when she was taken into custody by another police officer on the complaint of a third party.

While at the police station, Grant instructed the arresting officer to charge Kelly for failing to leave the airport.

On the refusal of the officer to do so without a proper basis, Grant arrested and charged the businesswoman.

Kelly was eventually allowed to leave the police station at 4:30 p.m. that day.

In August 2015, Kelly was detained at the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre for five days in relation to the charges.

Kelly was freed in 2016 when the charges were dismissed in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on a no-case submission.

Following the outcome of the case, Kelly filed a suit in the Supreme Court in 2017 against the attorney general and Grant to recover damages.

Attorney-at-law Jason Jones, who represented Kelly in the civil suit, explained that the defendants did not file a defence and a default judgment was entered against them.

The case was set for assessment of damages in June this year before Justice Tricia Hutchinson and an award was handed down last month.

“Egregious and a blatant abuse of power,” is how the judge described the policewoman’s actions.

Jones told The Sunday Gleaner that his client, who had a valid permit to export goods, was at the airport doing her legitimate business when she was falsely arrested and charged.

“There was absolutely no reason to order her to leave the airport,” Jones added.

Kelly’s contention was that Grant did not have a proper basis for arresting her.

She testified that the arrests had their foundation in an ongoing feud between her common-law husband and Grant. She said that as a result of her arrest and imprisonment, she was traumatised and humiliated. She was shunned by friends and associates who heard of her arrest.

The businesswoman outlined that as a result of her detention, she suffered loss of income and incurred legal expenses to defend herself against the charges.

Kelly also lost income because she was instructed by the parish court judge to keep away from the airport until the case was disposed of in court.

“It is the unchallenged evidence of the claimant that the second defendant (Grant) was motivated by malice as there had been an ongoing feud between herself and the claimant’s spouse. It was the second defendant who arrested the claimant on the first occasion and she was the officer who continued the detention of the claimant on the second occasion, even after the arresting officer had indicated that there was no basis for same,” Justice Hutchinson said.

Kelly was awarded a total of $4.2 million with interest for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and aggravated damages. She was also awarded US$15,000 with interest for loss of income in addition to $312,000 for special damages, which included medical expenses. A medical report from psychiatrist Dr Terrence Bernard stated that the situation had a serious impact on Kelly’s mental health.

In refusing to make an award for exemplary damages, the judge pointed out that while she was of the view that the conduct of the policewoman was “egregious and a blatant abuse of power”, she was persuaded that the awards made were sufficiently punitive.

The judge, in awarding $1.5 million for aggravated damages, said that it was evident that the policewoman was engaged in oppressive and questionable conduct, which was likely motivated by the feud.

Attorney-at-law Dale Austin, who was instructed by the director of state proceedings, conceded that aggravated damages were warranted. However, he submitted that the amount of $2 million being sought was too high.

“It is important for agents of the State to ensure that they comply with the law and do not abuse their power because there can be serious consequences,” Jones told The Sunday Gleaner.

Jones also bemoaned the fact that many citizens who suffer injustices such as false imprisonment and malicious prosecution are not aware of their rights.

“They are not aware that what happened to them was wrong and they are entitled to compensation,” he said.