$.5m for church members beaten by cops, soldiers
FIVE men detained and beaten by police officers and soldiers who stormed the St Michael’s Spiritual Baptist Church in Penal four years ago will be compensated more than half a million dollars.
The award was made yesterday by High Court Master Marta Alexander who condemned the “repulsive” actions of the law enforcement officers.
“Today it is a Baptist church. What will it be tomorrow. Are there no boundaries?” she said.
On October 1, 2008, the men were participating in the church’s yearly three- night prayer service which started with prayers and continued into the early hours of the following morning.
Around 2.30 a.m. the following day, the front door of the church was pushed in and police officers and soldiers, armed with guns entered.
Guns were pointed at the men who were made to face the wall with their hands raised and feet apart.
“The officers used their rifles to further desecrate the church and by entering the private prayer room where no shoes are permitted,” according to the evidence.
Some of the men were taken to the Penal Police Station and on the way were beaten.
One of the men said he was hit with a gun butt on the neck and that his hair was burnt with a cigarette lighter by a soldier.
He said he was cursed and slapped and kicked continuously. After being placed in a cell, they were allowed to leave that same day without being charged.
Those kept at the church were held for an hour and a half and questioned. They were asked about their residence and whether they were in possession of anything illegal.
The detainee said no warrant was read to them and neither were they informed of the reason for the search.
Spiritual leader at the church, Fitzroy Brown, and church members Judah Ramnarine, Amin Hamilton, Aston Bailey and Sharon Patterson claimed damages for false imprisonment and assault and battery.
Brown said he always saw himself as a “guided light” to all members of the society said the the incident left him “traumatised, emotionally upset, humiliated, embarrassed and I suffered mental distress and ridicule.”
He also said that following the incident, members of the church were unwilling to attend nightly prayer meetings.
Twelve persons filed the lawsuit but the court only considered the evidence of five applicants.
Yesterday, the court ordered that Brown and Patterson be paid $20,000 for being falsely imprisoned.
She also ordered that Ramnarine, Hamilton and Bailey be paid $75,000 in damages for false imprisonment.
They are also to be paid for being assaulted and battered sums between $8,500 and $13,500. The two amounts are to attract three years interest.
Each man is also to be paid exemplary damages of $20,000 and cost were assessed at $38,035.53.
Master Martha Alexander also commented “it is unacceptable that officers of the State can act in a disrespectful, abhorrent, and repulsive manner towards citizens generally but more particularly so even when they are in a place of worship”.
The men were represented by attorney Shawn Roopnarine.
Attorney Keisha Prosper instructed by attorney Zelica Haynes appeared on behalf of the State.