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Appeal Court orders retrial of assault case

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

Monday, June 30, 2014    

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THE Court of Appeal has ordered a re-hearing of a civil suit over a 1994 assault incident that left the victim, who was 10 years old at the time, scarred for life.

Ricardo Riley, who was a fifth grade student at Linstead Primary and Junior High School in St Catherine, was beaten by a grade nine student and left unconscious with a broken skull on the morning of February 4, 1993.

Riley and his mother filed suit the following year against the attorney general and the reported attacker who, at the time, was a 15-year-old class prefect.

They sought damages for consequential loss and damage arising from the said personal injury.

According to court documents, Riley, who was class monitor at the time, said no teacher was in the class when the attack was carried out.

He said the assault was set in train after a student in his class attempted to take from him bun and milk that belonged to other students.

Riley said that when the student grabbed the milk it spilled on his own shirt. Riley said he retaliated by spraying milk on the boy's shirt.

He said that the boy left and returned with the Grade nine student, who is his cousin. "He held me in my head back and hit my head on the bench several times," Riley said in court documents.

Riley said that he was running to his brother's class when the 15-year-old chased him, knocked him to the ground and used a broom to beat him. He woke up in

the hospital.

His mother said that she went to the school and saw her son in an unconscious state, with his eyes swollen shut.

The matter went to trial in the Supreme Court in 2002 and ended in 2003 with a ruling against the claimants.

A medical report provided to the court specified the physical damage Riley sustained. According to the report, Riley suffered severe head injury with permanent brain damage and scaring of his right forehead. Bone fragment was also stuck in his brain.

Riley was unable to sit the GSAT exam in March 1993 because of the injury. He said he suffered from severe headache and has been unable to play his favourite sport, football.

Riley, who said he had to give up on his dream of being an architect because he was unable to manage the studies, said he left school at the age of 15 and helped his father to work as a plumber and mason. But he said he had to give that up too because he kept blacking out on the job.

In ruling against Riley and his mother Hyacinth, the court found that a teacher was in the classroom at all times and that the injury took place outside the class.

The claimants filed an appeal asking for the matter to be remitted to the Supreme Court for a re-hearing.

They listed a number of grounds, including that the judge was wrong to have determined judgement in favour of the attorney general on a balance of possibilities when the evidence "preponderated in favour of the plaintiff" and that the judge erred in not dealing separately with the three heads of the plaintiffs' claim, namely negligence, breach of statutory duties under the Education Act and under the Occupiers Liability Act.

The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial of the matter. The appeal was argued by Queen's Counsel Norman Hill on behalf of the appellants.

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