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AG appeals stop-and-search ruling

BY PAUL HENRY Co-ordinator -- Crime/Court Desk henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 31, 2013    

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THE State is appealing the award made by Justice David Batts to taxi operator Gary Hemans in a ruling in which the judge remarked that the police should discontinue the arbitrary stop and search of motor vehicles.

The Attorney General's Chambers, on behalf of the State, has filed documents in the Court of Appeal outlining the grouses with Batts' ruling, which it is claiming is excessive.

Batts ruled at the end of May that the State should pay $2.8 million in damages to Hemans, who was assaulted by the police when he was stopped in St Catherine in May 2007.

The aspect of Batts' ruling being appealed is the $500,000 award for damages for assault (being the pain, suffering, loss of amenities, and the embarrassment or insult from the injury) to Hemans; the $250,000 in damages for false imprisonment award; and aggravated damages in the sum of $1,200,000.

The attorney general is challenging the fact of law that an award for embarrassment or insult from the injury is to be included in the award for assault.

According to one of the grounds for appeal, "The learned judge erred in law by taking into account the embarrassment of the respondent in arriving

at the award for damages for assault."

The attorney general also contends that Batts erred, "as a matter of law" by relying on two unreported authorities in computing the award for false imprisonment, "which award is in any event excessive in all the circumstances", and in determining the award of aggravated damages "which award is in

any event excessive in all the circumstances".

The appellant is seeking orders for the figures being challenged to be set aside and substituted with "more appropriate awards for quantum of damages".

Batts had set off a raging debate when he commented in his ruling that the police did not have the power, under the Road Traffic Act, to arbitrarily stop and search motor vehicles. He emphasised that lawful reasons must be given by the police for stopping and searching a motor vehicle.

Hemans reportedly testified during his lawsuit that he and other family members were coming from the Hellshire Beach in St Catherine on May 16, 2007, when they were stopped at the Hellshire roundabout by three police officers.

He said when he enquired why they were so aggressive, he was beaten and taken to a police station in Portmore, where he was locked up until the next day.

Hemans said that at the station, he was forced to strip and squat in a corner, and he felt humiliated and embarrassed.

He said he was charged with assaulting the police, using abusive language, and using indecent language.

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