Roderick Cunningham v Attorney General for Jamaica and Others

JurisdictionJamaica
CourtSupreme Court (Jamaica)
JudgeEdwards, J
Judgment Date28 February 2014
Neutral Citation[2014] JMSC Civ 30
Docket NumberCLAIM NO. 2011 HCV 01024
Date28 February 2014

[2014] JMSC Civ. 30

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE OF JAMAICA

CLAIM NO. 2011 HCV 01024

Between
Roderick Cunningham
Claimant
and
The Attorney General for Jamaica
1st Defendant
Superintendent Clinton Laing
2nd Defendant
Corporal Horace Fitzgerald
3rd Defendant

Mr. Charles R. Campbell for the Claimant.

Ms. Deidre Pinnock Instructed by the Director of State Proceedings for the Defendants.

ASSESSMENT OF DAMAGES — MALICIOUS PROSECUTION — AGGRAVATED DAMAGES — EXEMPLARY DAMAGES — WHETHER EXEMPLARY DAMAGES APPLICABLE TO THE TORT OF MALICIOUS PROSECUTION

Edwards, J
THE FACTS
1

On the 16 th of May 2000, a visit by the Claimant, Mr. Roderick Cunningham, to his girlfriend's home was to change his life forever, and not for the better. On leaving her home, the unthinkable happened. Whilst walking in a lane off Jacques Road in the Mountain View Avenue area of Kingston, Jamaica, at about 8.30 pm, under cover of darkness, he encountered heavy gun fire. A bullet ripped into his leg and he fell to the ground. He managed to crawl into a yard and was assisted inside the house by a ‘Good Samaritan’. His leg was shattered with the bones exposed. Whilst he lay bleeding inside the house, the ‘Good Samaritan’ could only pray. He fell into unconsciousness and came awake to see the 3 rd Defendant and other soldiers over him.

2

He was pulled from the house into the lane and placed into the trunk of a police car along with another man who appeared to be dead. Locked in the trunk of the car he was transported to the Kingston Public Hospital where he was removed to the emergency area bleeding and in pain. He was placed on a ward where the 2 nd Defendant came to see him. Thereafter, another group of policemen came and his hands were swabbed for gun powder residue. No gun powder residue was found.

3

On the morning of the 17 th May 2000, he was taken into surgery and as a result of the damage done by the gun shot injury, his right leg was amputated. He was subsequently arrested and charged by the 2 nd Defendant for illegal possession of firearm and ammunition, shooting with intent and wounding with intent. He spent five days in hospital under police guard. During that time he was handcuffed to a bed rail. After being discharged he was taken into custody at the Elleston Road Police Station in Kingston then onto Port Royal Police Station where he was locked up for two weeks without facing the court. He was taken to Gun Court on the 12 th June 2000.

4

He was taken to court without crutches and had to hop into court whilst holding onto the walls. He was humiliated and embarrassed as he was stared at by civilians and police. One police officer offered his shoulder to assist him in getting into court. He was offered bail on the urging of Queens Counsel with condition that he report to the police station every day. He attended court thereafter for a period of four years and ten months, where the case was called up numerous times. The trial itself lasted six days. The prosecution's witnesses were soldiers and police officers including the 2 nd and 3 rd Defendants. The prosecution presented evidence that he had been in possession of a rifle and ammunitions which was exhibited in court and claimed he fired at the police and soldiers. The swab results however, were negative for gun powder residue. On the 16 th March 2005 he was dismissed on a no case submission which was upheld by the learned judge. Although he was dismissed he was placed back into custody and fingerprinted.

THE CLAIM
5

The Claimant, a mechanic filed this claim against The Attorney General for Jamaica, Superintendent Clinton Laing and Corporal Horace Fitzgerald for damages for malicious prosecution whilst acting either maliciously or without reasonable and probable cause in the execution or purported execution of their duties as servants and or agents of the Crown.

6

The Claimant also claimed exemplary damages and aggravated damages in consequence of acts committed by the 2 nd and 3 rd Defendants in pursuance of this malicious prosecution. The 1st Defendant was made a party to these proceedings by virtue of the Crown Proceedings Act.

7

The Claimant alleged that on the 16 th day of May 2000, the 2 nd Defendant and or the 3rd Defendant and or other servants or agent of the Crown laid or caused to be laid charges of Shooting with Intent, Wounding with Intent, Illegal Possession of Firearm and Illegal Possession of Ammunition against him maliciously and without reasonable or probable cause. On the 16 th day of March, 2005 at his trial all the charges, were dismissed. As a result of the acts committed by the Defendants, the Claimant suffered humiliation, embarrassment, loss and expense.

8

The Claimant claimed exemplary damages and aggravated damages and relied on the following facts:-

  • (a) That in consequence of the false charges laid the Defendants pursued the case for an inordinate period of 4 3/4 years and upon his trial the Claimant was dismissed of all charges without being called to answer the charges.

  • (b) That as a consequence of false charges laid by the 2nd and 3rd Defendants and applications made by the servants and or agents of the Crown in relation to the condition of bail, the Claimant a disabled person had to report to the Vineyard Town Police Station everyday over a period of approximately three (3) years and thereafter every other day at the Duhaney Park Police Station.

  • (c) That as a consequence of the charges laid by the servants and or agents of the Crown, the Claimant reported to the Vineyard Town and Duhaney Park Police Stations in excess of one thousand times.

  • (d) That the 2 nd Defendant and or the 3 rd Defendant by laying the aforesaid charges caused the Claimant to be imprisoned at the Kingston Public Hospital and thereafter at the Port Royal Police lock up in circumstances of great pain and suffering pursuant to the shooting of the Claimant by the 3rd Defendant and or other servant or agent of the Crown resulting in the amputation of his right leg.

  • (e) That the Claimant a citizen without any criminal convictions was put to ridicule distress and anguish over a period of 4 3/4 years of Court attendance as a consequence of the false charges laid against him by the Second Defendant and or the Third Defendants.

9

The 1 st Defendant admitted liability and filed an amended defence limited to quantum of damages.

SPECIAL DAMAGES
10

The Claimant is entitled to the cost of defending himself against this malicious prosecution. He provided proof in the sum of eighty two thousand dollars ($82,000.00) for legal fees and this sum was agreed by the parties. He asked to be awarded a great deal more on his mere say so. I find that there is no acceptable excuse for not having or presenting receipts or other proof of the payment for legal fees.

11

He also claimed for transportation occasioned by his reporting to the Vineyard Town and Duhaney Park police station for over four years. His mother, who provided transportation, gave evidence that the cost of petrol was $130 per gallon at the time and that the distance to Vineyard Town was over 30 miles and required more than a gallon of petrol each trip. The distance to Duhaney Park was given as 22 miles round trip costing $120 per trip. In cross examination she told the court that her daughter went to school in Duhaney Park, so, in any event, she would have had to take her to school and back at the same time she took the Claimant to report. The Claimant also claimed travel by taxi for 216 days at a cost of $450 dollars per day.

12

Counsel for the defendant submitted that no award should be made for these expenses. She submitted that the issue of bail is at the discretion of the court and the terms of the bail bond are imposed solely at the discretion of the learned judge. She submitted further that, the costs associated with carrying out the conditions of the bail are too remote and is not a direct loss arising from the tort. It was submitted that these losses by their very nature would be included in general damages.

13

Without citing any authority, it would appear to me on principle that if a Claimant is unable to recover damages for the period of imprisonment under a judicial remand, then he can no more recover the expenses associated with travelling under a judicial order to report to a police station as a condition of his bail. I agree with council for the Defendants that such damages (in the form of a moderate award) are more indirectly recoverable under the head of general damages for inconvenience and discomfort resulting from the malicious prosecution. There is no basis for any further award under this head.

GENERAL DAMAGES
Malicious Prosecution
14

Damages for malicious prosecution are usually awarded where a Claimant proves that he was charged for a criminal offence, the law being put in motion against him by the defendant; that the case was determined in his favour by virtue of being acquitted or otherwise and that the prosecutor in setting the law in motion had been actuated by malice or had acted without reasonable or probable cause. The Claimant must also prove that he suffered damage as a result. Section 33 of the Constabulary Force Act reads;

Every action to be brought against any Constable for any act done by him in the execution of his office, shall be an action on the case as for a tort; and in the declaration it shall be expressly alleged that such act was done either maliciously or without reasonable or probable cause; and if at the trial of any such action the plaintiff shall fail to prove such allegation he shall be non-suited or a verdict shall be given for the defendant.

15

In this case the 1 st Defendant admitted that there was no reasonable and probable cause to prosecute the Claimant for gun and ammunition and wounding charges for...

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4 cases
  • Hilton Robinson v Aaron King
    • Jamaica
    • Supreme Court
    • 31 January 2020
    ...All of those factors mentioned, are relevant for present purposes. In that regard, see: Roderick Cunningham v Attorney General and ors. [2014] JMSC Civ 30. The claimant's counsel has submitted that the claimant should be awarded the sum of $2,000,000.00 as damages for malicious prosecution ......
  • Raphael George Westcar v Constable Mark Tomlinson
    • Jamaica
    • Supreme Court
    • 25 February 2021
    ...of 2020, that award updated to $773,516.64. 54 The defendants cited the case of Roderick Cunningham v The Attorney General of Jamaica [2014] JMSC Civ. 30 where Edwards J. (as she then was), enumerated the matters that should be considered when seeking to determine a fair award in a claim of......
  • Peter Bandoo v Detective Sergeant Ralph Grant
    • Jamaica
    • Supreme Court
    • 26 April 2017
    ...prosecution only. Instead, the defendant says reliance should be placed on the case of Roderick Cunningham v Attorney General et al [2014] JMSC Civ. 30 which details factors the court took into consideration before awarding damages for malicious prosecution. These factors include: (a) Serio......
  • Stewart v Attorney General
    • Jamaica
    • Supreme Court
    • 7 July 2017
    ...by $100,000 thereby bringing its total to $295,000. Malicious Prosecution 20 Roderick Cunningham v Attorney General of Jamaica ; 2014 JMSC Civ 30 underscored the factors which are of relevance to a court in determining the award for malicious prosecution They are: (1) The seriousness of the......

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