Jamaican National, Sandra Russell, who is alleging that she was kept in police custody for an additional eight months after she had completed serving a sentence of three and a half months for trafficking 70 grams of marijuana, has filed a lawsuit against the State in which she is claiming in excess of $70M for false imprisonment.
Russell, 54, says that she is a citizen of Jamaica and resides locally at Pouderoyen Squatting Area, Pouderoyen Village, West Bank Demerara, and that her fundamental rights as guaranteed under Articles 139, 141 and 148 of the Constitution were breached, encroached and infringed by the Guyana Police Force and Immigration Officers.
According to the woman’s lawyer, Darren Wade, his client arrived in Guyana on May 13, 2013. Wade said that on June 25, 2018, Russell was held by police at Omai Landing in the Essequibo River with 70 grams of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.
Three days later, on June 28, 2018, his client was placed before the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts where she pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, along with a fine of $180,000.
Russell in an Affidavit in Support of her claim said, “I was taken to the New Amsterdam Prison to serve my sentence. I had a reduction of sentence to three and a half months in prison.
“I was released from prison on the 10th November, 2018.”
The woman said that she was released into the custody of a female Immigration Officer who informed that she had to be taken to the Immigration Office to be processed for deportation to Jamaica.
According to Russell, while travelling to the Immigration Office, the Immigration Officer received a phone call and later informed her that she would be taken to the East La Penitence Police Station, instead.
She further claims that she was only released from police custody on July 7, 2019 on $10, 000 bail after the intervention of Kaieteur News.
Russell swore in the Affidavit that, “Whilst I was at the East La Penitence Police Station, I was informed by a female office and verily believe that a Kaieteur News reporter came to the police station to interview me and they sent the reporter away.”
She said that while in custody, she was never taken before a Judge or Magistrate.
Russell pointed out that the conditions at the East La Penitence Police Station were poor. She disclosed that she was without proper and adequate meals and supplements and as a result had to be taken to the East La Penitence Heath Centre for medications.
She complains, “While at the East La Penitence Police Station, I became depressed and stressed. At the East La Penitence Station, the lighting and ventilation were very poor and I spent all the time in the cell and had no leisure or physical activities.”
She continued, “There were no beds at the East La Penitence Police Station and I slept on a thin mattress that was very stink, on the concrete floor. As a result, I suffered from back pains.
There are only three cells at the East La Penitence Police Station and at times, it could be about three to twenty of us prisoners in those cells. There were many of us; we were packed like sardines in order to fit on a mattress and the place was very humid because we had no fan nor AC.”
In all the circumstances, the Jamaican national believes that the police had no legal authority to keep her in custody after 72 hours without charging her or seeking an extension of time from the courts.
In her lawsuit filed against the Attorney General, Commissioner of Police and Chief Immigration Officer, Russell is seeking in excess of $50M for false imprisonment; a declaration that she suffered inhuman, degrading treatment by the State; a declaration that the Guyana Police Force and Immigration Officers of the State had no legal authority to further imprison her beyond her prison sentence; a declaration that the Guyana Police Force and Immigration falsely imprisoned her.
In addition, she is also seeking, $10M per day for everyday she spent in unlawful custody; in excess of $20M for inhuman and degrading treatment suffered by her; in excess of $20M for the breach of her Freedom of Movement.
The woman is also asking the court for exemplary and aggravated damages and any further or such other order that the court may deem just.
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