Judge Astaphan questions police as he rules for relief to Warren Cassell and his law firm against seizures
In a significant ruling handed down Friday, September 21, 2012, the High Court of Montserrat has granted Attorney Warren Cassell, his wife Cleo and the legal firm Cassell and Lewis, leave to file a lawsuit seeking several reliefs including damages.
The ruling by His Lordship Justice Thomas Astphan was made following the filing of an application by Mr. Cassell and Cassell and Lewis, which sought permission to file for damages, after the home of Mr. Cassell and his wife and the offices of Cassell and Lewis were searched by officers of the Royal Montserrat Police Force, just days after Cassell’s conviction in February, 2012.
Mr. and Mrs. Cassell alleged that the search, during which the police officers removed several items including a laptop, computer, hard drive and camera, which belonged to Cassell and Lewis, was illegal, unconstitutional and without legal basis.
Attorney Cassell and his law firm brought the matter to the High Court of Montserrat, against the Commissioner of the Royal Montserrat Police Force, Police Sgt. Jessica Sweeney and Constable Tyrone Fenton; and the Attorney General.
The day before this hearing, the Commissioner of Police filed an Affidavit in opposition to the application for interim relief. While acknowledging the search and seizures, he denied any illegality. In the Affidavit, however, he did not oppose the application for leave to file for and serve originating motion, but consenting to have only two of the items returned.
The DPP’s office sought to support their opposition which was revoked eventually, as the judge asked them, how did this matter get here, suggesting he saw no evidence to support the police actions.
His Lordship Justice Astaphan ordered as follows:
By the consent of the Respondents, leave to file an serve an originating motion and supporting Affidavits for judicial review be granted upon the condition that it be filed within 14 days from the date of receipt of this Order by the Applicants;
Consent of the respondents, the items seized by the Royal Montserrat Police Service namely 1 Apple Ipad, 1 Nikon Camera,1 External Hard Drive, 1 Apple MacBook Pro Computer and accessories, be returned to the Applicants forthwith; and costs are agreed in the sum of EC$500.00 against the Respondents
The Cassells in their Affidavits of over 53 clauses deposed to an outline of how she was stalked, that the police lay waited Cleo at MSS where she teaches, followed her home three minutes away and with warrant in hand forced their way into her house with her children, proceeded to search and humiliate them amidst her objections, “I know I have done nothing for you to demand that you search these premises…”
She deposed that the Respondents along with several snide remarks, said such things and asked questions as, “where the 2nd Applicant’s wedding ring was…how could you afford this house?” Among other matters: threatened to take my personal computer and my kindle…kept badgering me for the 2nd Applicant’s cell phones. Both the 2nd and 3rd police officers were very commanding in the presence of the children who were obviously shaken up by their intruding presence…search my children’s bedrooms,…whose vehicles are those?”
In the end, Mrs. Cassell accused as follows, that, “I was detained like a criminal during the entire gruelling search and was unable to go back to my duties at the Montserrat Secondary School…The 2nd and 3rd Respondents made a careless, and disrespectful search of the personal possessions of the 2nd Applicant, my children and myself and also the belongings of Cassell & Lewis.”
Meanwhile the Attorney General sought to have the DPP’s office attached and named in the matter.
However the Intellectual Property, Entertainment and Company lawyer waits his appeal hearing early in November, the police having complied effectively with Judge Astaphan’s direct order in returning the seized goods.