'In our lawyers' hands'

'In our lawyers' hands'

•Hotel weighing options against Collier •JetBlue says she's no longer an employee, apologises to Jamaica

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

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Lawyers for H10 Hotels, the owners of Ocean Coral Spring, the Trelawny resort at the centre of the firestorm of damning allegations of kidnapping and trafficking by American Kalina Collier, who police say lied about her experience at the property, are weighing what action, if any, will be taken against her.

Yesterday, as news emerged that Collier was no longer employed at JetBlue Airways, Sabrina De Pasquale, a senior executive at Ocean Coral Spring, which is the first H10 Hotels establishment in Jamaica, told the Jamaica Observer that discussions were ongoing as to the route to be taken by the entity regarding Collier's allegations.

“At this time we are unable to give a final answer. We have not come to a final decision as it relates to this matter. Our lawyers are currently dealing with the matter. We have had several discussions surrounding the matter. We are leaving it in the hands of our lawyers,” De Pasquale said.

“We had provided information to the Jamaica constabulary and we left it at that,” she said further.

The five-star resort opened its doors here in 2019. Ocean by H10 Hotels was founded in 2008 as the brand under which the company H10 Hotels operates in the Caribbean.

Collier, who was a stewardess at JetBlue, had arrived on the island in January and was scheduled to depart on February 1, 2021 but tested positive twice for the novel coronavirus and was being quarantined by the hotel for 14 days, in keeping with internationally accepted COVID-19 protocols.

An upset Collier, however, took to social media in various video recordings, which went viral, claiming among other things that she was being held by people at the hotel who were trying to “traffic” her. She further claimed mistreatment, saying that a security guard had been posted outside the room in which she was being quarantined, that she had not been given a key for the room, and that hotel staff “open this door whenever they feel like”.

“I am sick to my stomach about what I have endured and what I have went (sic) through here, and this goes to show that these people are so wicked... These people have it coming for them... Yeah, they tried to traffic me; it is going to be a beautiful lawsuit; and, yes, you are invited,” Collier said in one recording.

“I am suing the pants off this place. I travel all the time; of course, I am suing,” she said going further to allege that she was being spied on by hotel workers. “I just found three cameras in my room. I covered them up, obviously...You guys have been watching me sleep, shower and shave? Who is getting off on that? That is disgusting.”

Her allegations led to people on social media calling for a boycott of Jamaica, earning the wrath of the island's tourism officials and the police who insisted that she was not telling the truth.

Yesterday, JetBlue's Manager, Corporate Communications Derek Dombrowski issued a statement that Collier was no longer with the airline.

“After an investigation, the crew member in question is no longer with JetBlue. We continue to offer our apologies for the frustration and concern this incident has caused and reiterate our confidence in the health protocols Jamaica has put in place,” Dombrowski said.

Earlier, Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett had issued a news release saying that JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes had extended a personal apology to the Jamaican Government and people during a phone call between both men.

“I was very heartened by the discussion I had with Mr Hayes earlier today. His apology to our prime minister; the Government; members of the tourism team; and the people of Jamaica, for the concern and frustration the incident has caused, was well received. We know that the actions of the employee are in no way a reflection of the standards of JetBlue,” said Bartlett.

“We look forward to strengthening our relationship with the airline moving forward, as JetBlue remains a valued tourism partner,” he added.

Jamaica, he added, remains a premier destination and will continue to provide the world-class service and tourism product that have allowed the island to become the destination of choice for millions of visitors from across the globe.

Over the past few days, calls for punitive action against Collier, whose social media posts gained significant traction, have mounted. However, several of the island's top legal minds have said there is no recourse in the present laws for Collier to be criminally charged. They, however, concur that any entity that has suffered due to Collier's social media posts can pursue a civil suit.

The island's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, QC, in an interview with the Observer on Monday, said with Jamaican authorities unable to lay criminal charges against Collier, policymakers may want to revise the law to ensure that such actions can be criminalised going forward.

The DPP said, while the allegations made by Collier have “damaging consequences to Brand Jamaica” and are “really shocking”, she cannot be successfully prosecuted under the criminal law neither for the offence of creating public mischief nor malicious communication (Section 9 of the 2015 Cybercrimes Act).

“In respect of any possible criminal action, there are two legal avenues that come to mind the common law offence of creating public mischief; this would not apply when you look at it because, yes, you may have a false statement being made, but there is no material to show that this false statement has been reported to the police in a way that would have caused them to have initiated an investigation; so, therefore, creating public mischief could not be proved,” the DPP noted.

The second avenue, she said, was in respect to section nine of the Cybercrimes Act, but Collier would still be out of the reach of the law.

“There are three ingredients outlined in the Act; the only one we would have is the fact that she used a device to post these statements. What would be missing in terms of the ingredients of the offence would be the fact that it was not obscene. We would not be able to prove that it was done with an intention to cause anything sinister to happen to the entity or any person,” Llewellyn explained. “As the law stands now, it falls short in terms of the ingredients.”

As for the hotel's options, she said that it needs to get the appropriate legal advice to see whether it would be in the best position to pursue civil remedies, given the possible damage it has suffered.

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