Harrigan estate man wins more than $30K in Wrongful Arrest, Unlawful Search case
A Harrigan Estate man, Damion A. Morgan, has won more than $30, 000.00 in a High Court case against the Attorney General with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) as Subject. Morgan, as Claimant, sought federal and special vindicatory damages against the defenders for Unlawful Search, Wrongful Arrest, False Imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.
He also sought pre-judgment interest from August 6, 2018, to the day of Judgement at the rates of 3% per annum/or such rate and for such period as the court deems just.
Baby taken on rainy night from Festival Village
According to the judgement seen by Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) and published yesterday, Friday, February 23, 2023, Morgan had seen his young baby in the care of a friend of the baby's mother, Chrystal Mitchell, at the Festival Village in the late evening of August 2018.
He then decided to take the baby home with him as he was concerned about the baby being out in the condition; however, did not communicate his decision to the baby’s mother, which resulted in an argument between the two at his home.
The judgment added that Ms Mitchell contacted Morgan and then went to the apartment to uplift the baby; however, he refused to let her have the child.
He said police later contacted him by telephone informing him of a report by Ms Mitchell that he has the baby; however, he informed the police that he was the father and would return the child in the morning since the said baby was asleep.
Police arrive at apartment to uplift baby
Mogan said as the father, he had a right to remove the baby from the Festival Village given the conditions at the time. However, around 2:00 AM later that evening, a team of officers arrived at his apartment and banged on the door and, before he could open it, broke into the apartment and eventually removed the sleeping baby from him.
The police, when questioned, said they did not need a warrant for their entry and would show him ‘how the law works’. The police officers also did not have a court order to remove the baby from his care and the claimant testified that he also did not hear the police vehicle or call-out by the police officers for him to open the door.
The Claimant further reported that the police broke into his home, had the baby taken and he was then pulled out of his apartment, slammed against his car, handcuffed and transported to the Road Town Police Station where he was not told about the reasons for his arrest.
The judgement added that at the station, the claimant was told he did not ‘push out any child’ and as such, had no right to decide to take a child home with him the night. The incident at the home was witnessed by the Claimant’s brother and a female companion in the living room.
Police said they took action based on the situation
Police in their defence said they entered the home out of the urgency of the situation and on suspicion that the claimant may have been intoxicated based on reports from the baby’s mother that he was drunk. The police also charged him with common assault, based on claims of the baby's mother.
Morgan was subsequently prosecuted at the Magistrate’s Court; however, the matter was eventually discontinued by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
As part of the judgement, Judge Heather Felix-Evans ultimately ruled that the claimant should receive US $7500 in damages for unlawful search, US $20,000 for wrongful arrest or false imprisonment, US $5000 for malicious prosecution and nominal damage for legal fees at the sum of US $1,500.
Pre-judgement interest was awarded on the global sum from August 2018 to the date of judgement at a rate of 3% per annum. He is also expected to receive Statutory interest at a rate of 5% per annum from the date of judgement, along with the prescribed cost.
Mr Jamal Smith and Ms Crustal McKenzie were Counsels for the claimants and the Attorney General was represented by Nicosie R. Drummett as Principal Crown Counsel/Counsel for the defendant.
The judgement comes as the Caucasian UK police officers currently in the VI have allegedly been going around and arresting public residents, unlawfully entering their homes without warrants and ceasing property belonging to residents in a similar fashion.
Many of those persons arrested have been released without charges.