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Jamaican woman sues Guyana government for being kept in jail for extra 8 months on marijuana conviction

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Sandra Russell explained that she became depressed and stressed since the ventilation at the station was poor and she was forced to sleep on a thin mattress on the concrete floor

(NEWS ROOM GUYANA) —  Attorney-at-law Darren Wade has filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the State for the wrongful imprisonment of a 54-year-old Jamaican national, who was released from prison and kept an additional eight months at the East La Penitence Police Station.

In 2018, Sandra Russell was sentenced to eight months imprisonment and fined GYD$135,000 by the Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan for the procession of 70 grams of cannabis.

The Jamaican national had her sentence reduced to three and a half months and served her time at the New Amsterdam Prison, however, on November 10, 2018, Russell was released into the custody of a female Immigration Officer, who told her that she would be deported to her homeland.

“Whilst travelling, the said Immigration Officer received a phone call and she informed me that I will no longer be going to the Immigration Office and she is taking me to the East La Penitence Police Station,” Russell said in her court document.

The woman explained that while at the Police Station she was not taken to before a Magistrate or Judge.

“While at the East La Penitence Police Station I fell ill because of poor conditions, and not having proper and adequate meals and supplements and as a result, I was taken to a doctor at the East La Penitence Health Centre where I was treated and given medications,” Russell said.

However, while she suffered a reporter visited the police station for an interview but was turned away by the police.

Russell explained that she became depressed and stressed since the ventilation at the station was poor and she was forced to sleep on a thin mattress on the concrete floor which causes her to suffer from back pains.

“There are only three cells at the East La Penitence Police Station and at times it could be about three to twenty of us prisoners in those cells…when there were many of us, we were packed like sardine in order to fit on a mattress and the place was very humid because we had no fan nor AC.

Attorney-at-law Darren Wade

Nevertheless, after eight months of suffering, on July 7, 2019, she was released on $10,000 bail.

The foreign national explained that she was advised by her attorney and verily believe that the Guyana Police Force and Immigration Officers in the execution of their duties unlawfully breached, infringed, encroached and contravened her fundamental Right.

Additionally, she was subjected to false imprisonment by the Police and immigration officers.

Attorney-at-law Wade in the lawsuit listed several grounds for his application.

One of the grounds states that Police and the Immigration had no legal authority to hold the Applicant beyond 72 hours without seeking an extension from the courts.

Other grounds state that Russell was falsely imprisoned by the Police and Immigration authorities and whilst in custody she had not proper bedding, inadequate food, and the lockup had inadequate space, lighting, and poor ventilation.

Lastly, the applicant’s fundamental rights as guaranteed under Articles 139, 141 and 148 of the Constitution was breached, encroached and infringed by the Guyana Police Force and Immigration Officers of Guyana.

The applicant is suing the state for $10 million per day for everyday she spent unlawfully in custody.

Also, in excess of $20 million for inhumane and degrading treatment she suffered; in excess of $20 million for the breach of her freedom of movement and $50 million for false imprisonment.

The Attorney General, Basil Williams; Commissioner of Police and the Chief Immigration Officer are listed as respondents in the lawsuit.

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