Jamaican National Sandra Russell, who was kept in local police custody for an additional eight months after she completed her three and a half months for trafficking 70 grams of marijuana was today awarded $3.1 Million in damages by Chief Justice, Roxane George.
Russell sued the State of Guyana for false imprisonment and being subjected to inhumane treatment. She was hoping for a $70 Million judgment.
During the hearing of the lawsuit, it was explained to the Court that Ms. Russell was charged and convicted in the Magistrates’ Court for trafficking of marijuana. The Court also ordered that she be deported on the completion of her sentence.
However, when the prison sentence was completed in November 2018 and she was taken to the Immigration Department for deportation, she was handed back over to the Police and taken into custody as she was now being investigated for overstaying her time in Guyana.
Ms. Russell remained in Police custody for eight months without ever being charged for an additional crime.
Eventually, she was released in July 2019.
There was no plan in place to facilitate her deportation, so she hired Attorney Darren Wade and filed the lawsuit against the state for wrongful imprisonment.
The Attorney argued that having completed her original sentence, she should not have been held in custody for such a long period without ever being charged for any additional crime. The laws of Guyana stipulate that a suspect can only he held for 72 hours pending charges. If additional time is needed during an investigation, the permission of the Court would have to be sought.
There was never an approach to the Court seeking an extension of time in the woman’s case.
In her ruling today, Chief Justice Roxane George found that the woman was indeed detained unlawfully and is entitled to redress from the state.
She did not buy the state’s arguments that the woman was being held while her true nationality was being verified. The Judge said while she understands the need for the verification, the process cannot take eight months, while keeping the woman in custody without any charges.
The Chief Justice said the laws of Guyana are very clear on the issues raised in the matter and she therefore ordered the state to compensate the applicant to the tune of $3.1 Million and also costs be awarded at $250,000.
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