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Man wins over $30K for wrongful arrest, unlawful police search

Man wins over $30K for wrongful arrest, unlawful police search

The High Court has issued a judgment that awards more than $30,000 to a man it concluded was wrongfully arrested by police in 2018 when police broke into his apartment and dragged him from beside his sleeping baby to handcuff him.
The claimant, Damion Morgan, sought general, special and vindicatory damages against the defendant — the Attorney General, who was being sued as the representative of the Crown (government) — for unlawful search, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

According to the judgment published by the court yesterday February 23, Morgan and the baby’s mother, Chrystal Mitchell, got into an argument at his home after he took the baby away from her friend at the Festival Village in Road Town around midnight on August 5, 2018 and brought the child to his Harrigan Estate home.

Morgan reportedly blocked Mitchell from entering his home when she came for the baby afterwards, since the baby was sleeping and reportedly told her he would bring the child in the morning, but she reported the matter to the police.

Officers from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) then visited Morgan’s home with Mitchell, banged on his door and forcibly entered the home and placed him in handcuffs. They then took the sleeping child and delivered it to Mitchell.

Morgan told the court that his brother and his brother’s girlfriend, who were both at his home at the time, witnessed the incident.

We will show you how the law works

Morgan was taken to the Road Town Police Station (RTPS) where he was questioned, charged for common assault against Mitchell and released later that day.

He denied that there had ever been any physical altercation between him and Mitchell when she visited his home.

According to court records, when he asked the police whether they had a warrant for their entry, he was told that they did not need a warrant and they would show him how the law works.

The officers of the RVIPF did not have any court order to remove the baby from his lawful care, and Morgan testified that he had not heard sirens of the police vehicle or callouts by the police officers for him to open his door.

At the time of his arrest, Morgan testified that nothing was said to him about the reason for same and in the course of being transported to the RTPS, he asked the reason for his arrest and was informed by one of the officers that since they had broken into his home, they had to arrest him.

While at the police station, Morgan alleged that Sergeant Stany Francis said to him that he did not “push out any child” so what made him think he had a right to decide to take the child home with him that night.

Morgan was subsequently prosecuted at the Magistrate’s Court for that offence but the matter was discontinued some 14 months later by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Police forcibly entered because of urgency

The police argued, among other things, that they entered Morgan’s home without a warrant because of the urgency of the situation and said he had ignored their calls to open the door.

Mitchell reportedly told officers that Morgan had been drinking earlier in the day and may have been intoxicated. She also reportedly told police that he did not have supplies at his home for the baby, but Morgan refuted those claims.

Judge Heather Felix-Evans ultimately ruled that Morgan should be paid damages for unlawful search in the sum of $7,500; damages for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment in the sum of $20,000; damages for malicious prosecution in the sum of $5,000 and nominal damages for legal fees in the sum of $1,500.

Morgan was also expected to receive pre-judgment interest on the global sum from August 6, 2018 to the date of judgment at 3% per annum; statutory interest (5% per annum) from the date of judgment until payment in full and prescribed costs.

Morgan was represented by attorneys Jamal Smith and Crystal McKenzie while the Attorney General was represented by Principal Crown Counsel Nicosia Dummett.

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