Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George has completed hearing arguments and is set to rule in a lawsuit filed by Jamaican national Sandra Russell, who is seeking more than $100 million in damages from the State for false imprisonment.
In 2018, Russell confessed to trafficking 70 grams of marijuana and was sentenced to eight months in prison when she appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts. In the lawsuit, Russell deposes that that initial sentence was reduced to three and a half months and she was kept in prison for an additional eight months.
In the circumstances, she is seeking millions of dollars in damages for false imprisonment and several declarations, including one that her fundamental rights as guaranteed under Articles 139, 141, and 148 of the Constitution of Guyana were breached by the Guyana Police Force.
Russell said that she arrived in Guyana legally on May 13, 2013. However, on June 25, 2018, she was arrested by Police ranks at Omai Landing in the Essequibo River after 70 grams of marijuana was found in her possession. She was charged and placed before the court where she pleaded guilty to the offence. In turn, she was sentenced to eight months in jail and fined $180,000.
Russell, in her Statement of Claim, said that after the sentence was imposed, she was taken to the New Amsterdam Prison to serve her time. While doing so, she claimed that her sentence was reduced to three and a half months. She was released from prison on November 10, 2018.
According to her, a female immigration officer then informed her that she would be taken to the Immigration Office to be processed for deportation to Jamaica. However, she said that she was taken to the East La Penitence Police Station instead and was only released on $10,000 bail on July 7, 2019. While in custody, she said she was never taken before a Judge or Magistrate.
The Jamaican woman complained that the conditions at the East La Penitence Station were poor and she was left without proper and adequate meals which resulted in her being taken to a health centre for medications.
The woman believes that the Police had no authority to keep her in custody beyond 72 hours without seeking an extension from the court given the facts that she had completed serving her sentence. Against this backdrop, Russell is seeking in excess of $50 million for false imprisonment.
She is also seeking $10 million per day for every day she spent in unlawful custody and over $20 million for inhumane and degrading treatment suffered by her. She also wants the court to award her more than $20 million for breach of her freedom of movement as well as exemplary and aggravated damages, court costs, and any further orders the court deems just.
The other declarations Russell is seeking include a declaration that she was falsely imprisoned by the Guyana Police, a declaration that she suffered inhumane and degrading treatment by the State and another declaration that the Guyana Police Force had no legal authority to further imprison her beyond her prison sentence.