By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
AFTER a series of court wins, Jamaican national Matthew Sewell has scored another legal victory, with the Supreme Court ordering a $60,000 interim payment within 60 days.
This comes as Mr Sewell continues his legal battle over his false imprisonment case.
Shuffled between prison and the Carmichael Road Detention Centre for more than nine years without facing a hearing on sexual assault, housebreaking and murder charges, his ordeal ended with Mr Sewell finally receiving bail on March 4, 2016. Mr Sewell was 18-years-old when he was first detained. He is suing the government for damages pertaining to assault, battery, arbitrary and unlawful detention, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and breaches of his fundamental rights under the Constitution.
The Rights Bahamas organisation issued a statement on the victory congratulating Mr Sewell and thanking the court for its dedication to justice.
“Rights Bahamas congratulates Matthew Sewell on this victory and thanks the court for its continued courage and staunch dedication to justice,” the statement read. “Today, as the world’s focus is on the terrible abuse meted out by law enforcement to underprivileged individuals across the globe, we once again call upon the Bahamas government to take a stand against unlawful detention and physical abuse by police, immigration and prison officers.”
The statement noted that Mr Sewell’s claim was headed to trial in April, “but the government failed to comply” with case management orders and did not file witness statements in time. In response, the statement said, Mr Sewell’s attorneys filed an application for interim payment and the court ruled in his favour. Justice Ruth Bowe-Darville awarded the sum in a judgement dated May 27. The government has indicated it will appeal.
“We further urge the government to stop advocating on behalf of the purveyors of injustice by fighting tooth and nail against each and every claim of abuse – through the initial case, to the Court of Appeal and often beyond,” the statement continued. “This not only wastes the court’s time and costs the public a great deal of money in the form of aggravated damages, it also encourages and facilitates the continuation of egregious and widespread abuse at the hands of law enforcement. The powers that be should do the right thing and seek to settle when they know they are in the wrong.”
In October 2015, the court ruled that Mr Sewell had been unlawfully detained for nine years by both the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Immigration, without ever being convicted of a crime. He was given bail in March 2016. He was 27-years-old at the time.
Rights Bahamas compared Mr Sewell’s situation to that of Haitian migrants who made complaints last week about deplorable conditions at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, where they are being held. The organisation says the Detention Centre does not even exist on the law books of the Bahamas.
“We call upon the government of the Bahamas to publicly reject and renounce all forms of law enforcement abuse and declare its solidarity with the many victims within its jurisdiction,” the statement concluded. “. . .The world is watching and history will adjudge their record.”
In July 2016, Mr Sewell was awarded $125,000 in damages in relation to his unlawful detention.