Jamaica: Attorney sues police, attorney general after search of his office

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Jamaica: Attorney sues police, attorney general after search of his office

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Attorney Vaughn Bignall last Friday filed a lawsuit against a senior superintendent of police and the attorney general for what he described as a “warrantless search” of his offices in Half-Way-Tree.

In the statement of claim Bignall — who had posted a video of the police search on social media — said that on April 22, 2020 Senior Superintendent Jacqueline Coombs and police officers “ostensibly under her command” demanded access to his law offices to conduct the search.

Bignall said he did not consent to the search, and as such his “constitutional rights were abrogated, abridged and/or infringed” by the senior superintendent and police officers under her command.

He said the decision of Senior Superintendent Coombs — whom he named as the first defendant — and the police officers under her command “was not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” as “section 13 (2) (b) of the Constitution provides that no State organ shall take any action which abrogates, abridges or infringes any of the rights guaranteed by Chapter III of the Constitution”.

He pointed out that section 19 of the Constitution “provides that any person alleging that any of the provisions of Chapter III of the Constitution has been, is being, or is likely to be contravened in relation to him, may apply to the Supreme Court for redress”.

As such, he said he is seeking relief on the grounds that as a citizen of Jamaica he is afforded the protection of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Bignall is also asking for a declaration from the court that the circumstances under which the search was conducted breached his and his clients’ right to “protection from search of property and for the respect for and protection of the privacy of his other property and communication acknowledged by section 13 (3) (j) and guaranteed by section 13 (2) of the Constitution”.

He also said the search breached:

* the right to equitable and humane treatment by any public authority in the exercise of any function acknowledged by section 13 (3) (h) and guaranteed by section 13 (2) of the Constitution;

* the right to due process as acknowledged by section 13 (3) (j) and guaranteed by section 13 (2) of the Constitution; and

* the duty of claimant under the Legal Professional Act and its canon in relation to his clients, his employee, and his associates without providing the claimant with any lawful justification for such a breach in the form of his compliance with a warrant or a court order.

The attorney is also asking for an injunction “restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, their servants and/or agents or otherwise howsoever from commencing or continuing any further warrantless search without full adherence to the laws of Jamaica”.

Additionally, he is seeking damages for breach of his constitutional rights to include aggravated damages, exemplary damages, and constitutional/vindicatory damages.

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