A man from Beetham Gardens, who was detained by police for almost two days after being charged with breaching COVID-19 public health regulations at a bar, is suing the State for compensation.
In the lawsuit, self-employed entrepreneur Keston Jackie is claiming that his constitutional rights to bail and to be brought promptly before judicial authority were infringed when police resisted several attempts by a Justice of the Peace (JP) to grant bail.
When the case came up for a preliminary virtual hearing yesterday, High Court Judge Frank Seepersad noted that it was significant as Jackie is contending that the JP was told that Police Commissioner Gary Griffith had given firm instructions not to facilitate bail for anyone arrested alongside him.
Seepersad stated that, if proven at trial, the case is of public importance as the police do not have such authority to determine bail for citizens.
“The Commissioner of Police or any police officer has absolutely no legal authority to deny a citizen access to bail if it is a bailable offence,” Seepersad said.
He also suggested that the case would help define the role of the police in facilitating bail.
“People have to understand the remit of their authority and bat within their crease,” Seepersad said, as he noted that he would have to carefully consider the evidence to determine if the instruction on bail had been in fact given by Griffith.
During the hearing, Seepersad set deadlines for the filing of evidence in the case.
While Jackie’s lawyer Lemuel Murphy said that the JP involved in the case was willing to give a statement, Seepersad said that a witness summons could be issued if he did not want to testify voluntarily.
Jackie was arrested as police raided a bar along the Eastern Main Road in San Juan on June 8, last year, and police allegedly found more patrons than was allowed under ongoing public health regulations for the pandemic.
He was held in police custody for two days before he was eventually charged.
Jackie’s lawyer and the JP made two attempts for him to be granted bail but were repeatedly denied.
He was eventually granted bail after he threatened legal action.
Through the lawsuit, Jackie is seeking declarations that his rights were infringed and compensation for inconvenience and loss he suffered.
Jackie is also being represented by Tamara Gregorio and Lloyd Robinson.
The case is expected to come up for hearing on May 10.