IN THE SUPREME COURT
TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
The Attorney General
The Commissioner of Police
Before: The Hon. Mr. Justice Carlos W. Simons QC
Appearances: Mr Peter McKnight of McKnights for the Plaintiffs.
Ms Clemar Hippolyte of the Attorney General’s Chambers for the Defendants.
Hearing Dates: 27 April 2022 and 28 to 30 March 2022
Venue: Court No. 5, Graceway Plaza, Providenciales
Date Delivered: 4 May 2022
Brief Factual Background
- The Plaintiffs, Harry Turbyfield and Carmen Turbyfield (the Turbyfields) are husband and wife. They have resided in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI / the Islands) for 30 years and 25 years respectively. They hold permanent resident status in the TCI and are, by definition, persons of good character i.e., law abiding residents, unknown to the Police authorities.
- On the morning of 1 March 2017, whilst on the way to dropping their 14-year-old son to school, they were stopped by Police and Immigration Officers and asked to produce their proof of status. These Officers were executing a special joint exercise called “Operation Flush Out” that was intended to target an alarming rise in violent crime and other illegal activities including the detention and processing of undocumented persons.
- Unfortunately, having left their PRC certificates at home the Turbyfields were of course unable to show proof of status and were swept up, as it were with thirty or so others and taken to the Detention Center for processing and to ascertain their legal status. As it turned out, the Turbyfields were well documented, long-term residents of the Islands holding status (PRCs) just short of the TCI equivalent of citizenship.
- All this would have been clarified if any of the Officers involved in their detention had had the presence of mind to allow one of them, or to accompany one of them to their home, five or ten minutes away, to collect their documents. But this wasn’t to be and the Turbyfields were bussed to the Detention Center where they were detained for 6 hours and 15 minutes and 5 hours and 30 minutes respectively.
- Unsurprisingly, there is much dispute as to the conditions the Turbyfields were held under and the humiliations and indignities they say they were made to suffer. However, as liability has been established, those details go solely to the quantum and heads of damages to be awarded, based upon the case law authorities I have been shown.
- I should say however that I generally accept the version of events related by the Turbyfields in preference to the defendants’ witnesses, whom I found to be somewhat lacking in empathy, combative and inflexible, none of which could have helped in the delicate situation in which they found themselves, and some of which, informing the Officers conduct was particularly egregious. I remind myself too, that the Turbyfields, coming out of a disastrous and emotionally charged encounter with Police and Immigration Authorities might tend, even if unconsciously to embellish their experience somewhat and in approaching the awards under the various heads of damage I make allowance for that as well.
Heads of Damage and Quantum
- On Prayer for Relief in their Statement of Claim, the Turbyfields claim damages for false imprisonment, unlawful detention, assault and battery, interest, and costs; and as I say, liability is no longer contested.
- Having read the submissions of Counsel and reviewed the case law authorities I have been referred to for guidance, I make the following awards:
- In respect of the First Plaintiff Mr. Turbyfield
- False imprisonment / unlawful detention $7,500.00
- Personal injury / assault and battery $5,000.00
- Aggravated damages $15,000.00
- In respect of the Second Plaintiff (Mrs. Turbyfield)
- False imprisonment / unlawful detention $5,500.00
- Aggravated damages $12,500.00
- Following the decisions in Holden v. Chief Constable of Lancashire  QB 380, AB v. Southwest Water  QB 507 and Kuddus v. Chief Constable of Leicestershire  UKHL 29, I decline to award exemplary damages on the ground that the damages awarded are adequate compensation and that the conduct of the mid-level Police and Immigration Officers involved falls short of the oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional benchmark that the common law requires for this seldom awarded head of damages.
- The Turbyfields shall have their costs of the action to be taxed if not agreed.
Hon. Carlos W. Simons OBE QC
Judge of the Supreme Court
4 May 2022