Evon Gordon v Detective Corporal Brown and Others

 
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[2015] JMSC CIV 199

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JAMAICA

IN CIVIL DIVISION

Coram: Batts, J.

CLAIM NO. 2008HCV 01237

Bewteen
Evon Gordon
Claimant
and
Det. CPL. Brown
1 st Defendant
W/CPL. Green Dixon
2 nd Defendant
Chief of Police Michael Garrick
3 rd Defendant
Attorney General
4 th Defendant

Tort — False Imprisonment — Constitutional Breach — Defamation — Arrest — Search and Seizure — whether reasonable and probable Cause — Injury to business — Whether S. 33 applicable to defamation — Whether warrant under Unlawful Possession of Property Act valid.

1

This Judgment was orally delivered on the 17 th January 2014. I now reproduce it with minor alterations in a permanent form. The Claimant describes himself as a businessman of Orange River District, Richmond P.O. St. Mary. He is an auto parts dealer and a minibus operator. His witness statement dated 10 th April 2013 was allowed to stand as his evidence in chief with some corrections and amplifications. Exhibit 1 was an Agreed Bundle of Documents labelled bundle #3.

2

The Claimant gives an account, which if true, records either a startling abuse of power or a shocking degree of incompetence. He states that at 9:30 a.m. on the 1 st June 2007 the police arrived at his business place in Highgate St. Mary. He says the police ‘swarmed everywhere’ and searched everything. His telephone was taken from him. They were at his premises for 2 hours. A large crowd gathered and watched. The police demanded documentation relative to vehicles on the premises and these the witness said he obtained and gave to them. They compared the numbers on the documents to that on the chassis of the vehicles. At one point, he said they scratched the area where the chassis was printed and accused him of stealing cars. The police also directed him to send for other vehicles he owned which were not at the premises. These included 2 Hiace buses used as public passenger vehicles. They seized the buses as well as his 2001 Corolla motor car and a 1995 Corolla.

3

The Claimant and a member of his staff were arrested, handcuffed, and taken away in a marked police vehicle. On Tuesday 5 th June 2007, he was advised that he would be released without charge. However while awaiting his release he was informed by Cpl. Green Dixon that Mike Garrick had called and indicated that he was not to be released. He says Cpl. Green Dixon said, ‘Boss we done what we came to do. We no find nutten to charge you for, and we supe at town say we fi let you go but Mike Garrick call and say nuh fi let you go. So, mi wash mi hand clean of this matter now; mi nuh have nutten fi do wid you again.’

4

He was subsequently taken before the court on the 7 th June 2007, by virtue of Habeas Corpus proceedings instituted by his attorney at law. The police then advised the court investigations were continuing. On the 11 th June 2007 the court ordered his release. He was released on the afternoon of the 11 th June 2007. (See pages 84 and 85 of Exhibit 1 in corroboration).

5

An application was also made for the release of his motor vehicles. After approximately 6 court appearances the vehicles were ordered released on a bond. Eventually the court released the bond. This witness statement also contained evidence supportive of losses he incurred.

6

When cross-examined the Claimant admitted knowing Det. Cpl. Delroy Brown (the 1 st Defendant) prior to the 1 st June 2007. They were born and grew up in the same community. He knew W/Cpl. Green (2 nd Defendant) prior to that date as he used to take her to school and work when he operated a public passenger vehicle. Det. Inspector Michael Garrick (3 rd Defendant) he knew as someone from the same general area known as Marlboro.

7

The Claimant was asked about a Toyota Hiace 2485EV and said he had purchased it from Mack D's Auto and admitted that he had agreed to pay the price in instalments but had not yet finished paying for it. He used it as a ‘robot’ until the police got “hard” and he applied for a PPV licence. He admitted, having seen page 26 of Exhibit 1, that the chassis number of the vehicle was RZH112- 0043207. It was the same vehicle the police seized on 1 st June 2007. He said when he went to collect the vehicle he noticed scraping on the firewall. He denied tampering with the chassis number on the vehicle. It was suggested to the witness that a forensic test was done on the vehicle but he said he was unaware of that. He was asked how the vehicle became PE2445 from 2485 EV and he responded that the former was the public passenger licence number issued after he got approval for the licence. The cross examiner tendered through the witness his answers to the Question and Answer dated 1 st December 2007 as Exhibit 2. When asked Crown Counsel admitted that there were no inconsistencies being relied upon.

8

The Claimant admitted buying a Toyota Corolla 2532 EC from a Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee had agreed to buy the vehicle from Mack D's Auto but was unable to complete the purchase. It was agreed that the Claimant would complete the purchase. That vehicle is described at page 12 of Exhibit 1. He said the vehicle was extensively damaged and had rotten spots. He therefore had to do repairs involving the cutting of the front and welding another front unto the vehicle. He also purchased a new engine from Better Wheels Auto in St. Mary and put it in the vehicle. He said he explained all this to the police. The relevant receipts were also given to the police. The following exchange occurred:

‘Q: What did you do with the chassis number that you received from the shell?

A: I did not get it with a chassis number when they selling it they bore holes in the chassis number and write on the receipt that they not selling you a car, they selling you as parts.’

9

He was asked about the motor vehicle licenced 4058EX, he said he purchased it from his attorney Christopher Hibbert. It had been involved in an accident. It was suggested that he had used body filler where the chassis number was printed. The Claimant explained,

‘My answer is where chassis number is no body filler was there. Repaired in Richmond nothing done to this chassis number .’

Q: Suggest when body filler removed a piece of metal 18cm x 13 cm was seen welded in place.

A: That vehicle 4058 EX met in an accident. The chassis number line about 4’ in length. That vehicle was poorly worked on. I sold this vehicle to Mavado. No metal was welded in place and the reason is and person I was sold, I was called to Constant Spring Police Station. The same person who they say Supt. Parsons checked the vehicle in my presence but did not know I was the same person.

He pass it and say nothing was wrong with it.’

10

In re-examination the Claimant elaborated on the area of damage to 4058DX,

11

The Claimant's next witness was Derval Jackson. The Defence objected that his evidence was mostly irrelevant. However, I ruled it admissible and his witness statement was allowed to stand, as his evidence is corroborative of the Claimant's testimony. It concerns events on the same day and related to the alleged co-conspirator.

12

Mr. Jackson stated that he was an employee of Evon Gordon (the Claimant) in June 2007. It was a Friday morning when the police arrived. He said they started asking him questions without identifying themselves as police officers. They questioned him about a Prado and he told them it belonged to his boss. He said at no point did the police say why they were there. He heard a female officer call the Claimant a car thief. He says there were customers around when this occurred. The police he says searched everything. He saw them use a knife to scrape the chassis of the vehicle in the yard. They then took him to Barracks River, his grandmother's residence. They never beat him. They questioned him about the Corolla at his home and he said the Claimant had purchased it from a man named Mr. Lee. They said it was a stolen car which he was keeping for the Claimant. They searched his grandmother's premises. They then took him to Zion Hill where he lived and where the Corolla was parked. He was called a thief. He was afraid they would kill him there as no one was at home. The car was not licensed or insured. He was taken to Richmond Police Station. Two weeks later he was charged and offered bail. He was in jail for over a month. Eventually the judge told him he was free to go.

13

When cross examined the witness identified two of the police officers who were present. He also indicated that he had known the one named Brown before that day. The following exchange occurred:

‘Q: Were they the only persons in the car

A: No 2 others were in the car male

Q: Put to you only one other officer in the car.

A: I saw 2 come out. They never identified themselves so I would not know.’

14

He said at the time of the incident he had been working for the Claimant for about three (3) months. He was a mechanic. He knew the Claimant before as they had gone to school together. He was asked about the questioning re the Prado and gave a detailed account. He said the police told him the white Corolla was at Zion Hill where he resides. As they already knew that he denied telling them it was at Barracks where his grandmother lives. The following exchange...

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