Judge Slates Govt Over Sewell Case


Matthew Sewell pictured in 2015 with his lawyer, Fred Smith. Photo: Jay Isaacs/JKL Media


A SCATHING condemnation of the government has been delivered over its handling of its defence in the case involving an innocent Jamaican man unjustly held in detention for nearly ten years.

The Tribune reported yesterday how the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of Matthew Sewell who is claiming $27m in damages for the years he was kept locked away.

In the Supreme Court judgment published this week, Judge Ruth Bowe-Darville catalogued a long series of delays by the government’s defence team, accusing them of being “negligent”.

Mr Sewell’s action was taken against the Office of the Attorney General, Minister of Immigration, Commissioner of Police, Superintendent of Bahamas Department of Correctional Services, Director of Immigration and Officer in Charge of Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

During the case Mr Sewell’s defence team - led by Fred Smith QC - had detailed the numerous occasions on which Mr Sewell had been arrested, accused of criminal offences and then released without any of the cases ever getting to court.

His final arrest, said Justice Bowe-Darville “was definitely a malicious act on behalf of the defendants, their servants and/or agents”.

As Mr Sewell’s case progressed through the court time and again the defendants failed to abide by deadlines set by the court.

The delays, said Justice Bowe-Darville “were all blatant failures on the part of the defendants”.

She continued: “The court finds that the defendants (by their counsel) were negligent in their conduct of this matter. They are guilty of contumelious delay in the prosecution of their defence.

“The chronology of the file shows that the defendants delayed from inception... The history of non-compliance is unacceptable.”

Significantly the judge’s order also highlighted part of the case presented by Mr Sewell’s legal team that his ordeal was not unique and that there had been other similar cases which had been decided against the government which, through its actions, it continues to ignore.

She wrote: “The plaintiff’s submissions present many decided like cases in The Bahamas. It was the plaintiff’s firm position that ‘despite repeated judicial pronouncements and educational exposition of what the law is in relation to police and immigration powers of arrest and detention, the defendants, their servants and/or agents continue to brazenly flout the fundamental rights and freedoms and Chapter 3 of the Constitution with impunity and without executive censure...”

Attorney General Carl Bethel could not be reached for comment up to press time.

The court will resume on October 28 to rule on the level of damages to be awarded to Mr Sewell.

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