By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
A MAN arrested in 2016 under suspicion that he recorded a disturbing song about former Prime Minister Perry Christie has been awarded $60,000 in damages after a Supreme Court judge found that he was unlawfully arrested, falsely imprisoned and had his constitutional rights breached.
The song, which went viral in August 2016, attacked Mr Christie, his wife and his children in vulgar terms.
Police eventually brought the songwriter to meet Mr Christie and the former leader later recounted how the man sobbed while asking for the family’s forgiveness. According to Supreme Court Justice Diane Stewart’s new judgement, however, police initially arrested Kevin Renaldo Collie on suspicion that he published the “libelous” song.
In her judgement released yesterday, Justice Stewart wrote: “During his arrest, (Mr Collie) was humiliated in front of his peers, his mother and members of the public which no doubt caused much embarrassment to him. His unlawful arrest was excessive as he was not only unreasonably handcuffed but was unnecessarily guarded by about eight officers at various times. In the circumstances, damages are awarded to the plaintiff and assessed at $35,000 as compensation for the torts of unlawful arrest and false imprisonment.
“Additionally, damages are awarded and assessed at $25,000 for breaches of the plaintiff’s rights as protected by Articles 20 and 21 (of the Constitution).”
Mr Collie and police defendants disagreed about how long he was in police custody. Justice Stewart wrote: “The differences in time are minimal but given the inaccuracies of the defendants’ evidence, the timeline of the plaintiff is preferred. In that regard, the court finds that the plaintiff was unlawfully arrested and falsely imprisoned for 32 hours.”
Mr Collie alleged that while working at the Bahamas Customs Marine Unit on West Bay Street on August 11, 2016, he was approached by a female officer and asked to exit the building. Once outside, she and seven other police officers searched his Mercedes Benz “without informing him of the reason for the search nor his arrest and removed his personal belongings from his vehicle,” he alleged.
He was subsequently transported to the Central Detective Unit and was allegedly handcuffed and placed in a room for 30 minutes until he was escorted to another room and was questioned by then Chief Superintendent of Police Clayton Fernander.
When Mr Collie arrived at CDU, he was taken through the front of the building instead of the back, “which caused him embarrassment after hearing someone say ‘that customs officer lock up, I wonder what he did,’” the judge wrote.
Chief Superintendent Fernander, since promoted to assistant commissioner, allegedly showed Mr Collie a photo of a man he identified as Navarro Saunders, someone he knew from Facebook.
“Thereafter, Chief Supt Fernander told the plaintiff that he was at CDU because of information received that he and Mr Saunders had distributed an audio recording which was derogatory of the prime minister and his family,” the judgement says. “The plaintiff denied distributing the audio recording and added that he was a PLP who defended the party all the time and that Bernadette Christie was his cousin.
“The handcuffed plaintiff was then transported by six police officers to his home, where they searched and subsequently removed his laptops and a tablet. He claimed that while at CDU and during the search of his home he was never told that he was under arrest.
“After the search was completed, the plaintiff was taken back to CDU, fingerprinted, photographed and informed of the reason for his arrest, more than three hours after he was initially arrested by the officers. He was questioned by police officers about the names of the members of a PLP WhatsApp group - Liberal Caucus. Thereafter, he was placed in a cell until about 7pm. The plaintiff was then transported to the Cable Beach Police Station, placed in a cell and remained in police custody until Saturday, 12 August, 2016 when he was released at 7pm.”
When Mr Collie was transferred to the Cable Beach Police Station, he was held in an “unusually cold cell without a blanket or a pillow,” it is claimed.
He described the ordeal as a terrible one and said he suffered immeasurable harm to his dignity.
“He further stated that he now suffers from post-traumatic stress as he is now afraid to be in small spaces and he also had to take three weeks vacation to recover from the ordeal which cost him overtime revenue,” the judge wrote.
Justice Stewart said she did not believe the arresting officer satisfied himself that Mr Collie was responsible for the offense or that he was familiar with the contents of the complaint.
“He never stated that he had any knowledge of the offense complained of, other than what was told to him,” she wrote. “An officer with the power to deprive a private citizen of his liberty should not do so just because he is told to do so. He should exercise his powers of arrest only if his belief is based on accurate, verified information that would cause him to believe that there is a chance that the person has actually committed an offense.”