Campbell v The Jamaica Telephone Company Ltd
No. C.L. C087 of 1988
Tort - Malicious prosecution — Plaintiff charged with conspiring to meddle/interfere, tamper and trespass on public works — At trial no evidence adduced and plaintiff dismissed — Whether the plaintiff was prosecuted by the defendants — Whether there was proof of malice on the part of the defendants.
Burchell Brown for the plaintiff.
Patrick Foster instructed by Dunn, Cox and Orrett for the defendants.
The plaintiff brings this action for malicious prosecution and negligence in the alternative. He was charged for conspiring on August 22 nd 1985 “to meddle/interfere, tamper and trespass upon the works of (a) Public Utility to wit: “telephone wires without the express authority of the licensee, the Jamaica Telephone Company Limited, contrary to section 3 of the Public Utilities Protection Act.” He appeared on a summons before a resident magistrate's court for St. Andrew to answer to the charge and ultimately, without any evidence being adduced, he was dismissed from the charge. Let me say right away that even if the plaintiff were to succeed in the action I would make no award of special damages. The particulars of special damages pleaded are as follows: “Legal fee to defend action -$1000.00.” Even if that means the legal fee incurred in defending himself on the criminal charge, that claim would evidence whatsoever was adduced to support it. As far as the question of general damages is concerned I am prepared to hold that the plaintiff has proved some damage is the light of his unchallenged evidence that he suffered humiliation and mental anguish arising from the charge and from the wide publicity it got. That said, in order to succeed in his claim for malicious prosecution it is not enough that the prosecution was, as the defendants admit, determined in his favour.
He must go on to prove not only that the prosecution was without reasonable and probable cause and that it was malicious, but he must also prove that he was prosecuted by the defendants, that is to say, that they set the law in motion against him on the aforesaid charge. The pleadings, and the evidence make this last stated requirement an important and live issue is this case. To the plaintiff's averment that the defendants caused him to be prosecuted the defendants plead that the “officers of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, acting on their own initiative and not pursuant to any directions given by the defendants' servant and/for agents, proffered charges against the plaintiff.” I will, of course resolve that issue by applying the law to the facts I find material and proved. The evidence of the two witnesses in the case, the plaintiff and Peter Williams who testified for the defendants, conflicts is important respects. So the facts will be established largely by the view I take of their reliability.
The plaintiff is a technician employed to the defendants and has been in their employ for the past 41 years. He told me from the witness box that on the morning of August 22nd 1985, in keeping with established procedure he went to the defendants' offices to a test clerk of the defendants, one Stafford Thompson, who would, an behalf of the defendants, assign him work to do for that day. He said that the test clerk gave him a number of jobs to do at different addresses is the corporate area. According to him one of the jobs he was assigned to do that day involved repairing a “drop wire” leading from the road to the front of premises, 19 Windsor Avenue, St. Andrew. He said that in assign him the jobs the test clerk gave him a document. This, the witness as describe as a “dispatch paper.” The plaintiff gave the clear impression that test clerk would have noted the various jobs on the dispatch paper. I pause here to note that the plaintiff made no use of this document is the significant events that unfolded later that day. He said he kept it in his pocket and simply handed it over to his supervisor the next morning. He told me that after the test clerk identified the line to 19 Windsor Avenue he went inside the premises. Workman, he said, were there. He further deposed that he corrected the fault, restored dial tone to the telephone there, and then left the premises
Continuing his narrative he testified that after he had finished the last assignment for the day he was driving past the said premises when someone called him in. He went in and a policeman approached him. He said that in the presence of Peter Williams, then the defendants' chief security officer, the policeman asked him who had sent him to work at 19 Windsor Avenue. He said he told the policeman it was the Telephone Company. He continued his testimony as follows:
“The policeman said that was a wide statement. I said Stafford Thompson. He asked me the telephone number I was assigned to work on. Told him it was 73672. The policeman then said he can't do me anything because I was assigned to the job. Peter Williams said, ‘lock him up and carry him go a jail.’ I got vex and didn't want to go to jail. Policeman took me to the Matilda's Corner Police Station. Peter Williams went with me. Police there asked me a lot of questions.”
He said that after he left the station he drove and parked the defendants' vehicle at 47 Half Way Tree Road whereupon Peter Williams came there and told him he was again wanted at the station. On his return he said Peter Williams asked him to sign some papers and he refused to do so. The plaintiff further said that a week or two later the police served him with a summons to attend court to answer the aforesaid charge. While he agreed that no employee of the defendant was present when he was served he told me that Williams attended court about three times in connection with the matter.
Peter Williams deposed that as the defendant's chief security officer in August 1985, his duties included investigating reports of illegal connections to the defendant's lines. He said that on August 22 nd 1985 he...
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