Full Court dismisses appeal filed by attorney arrested by SOCU in 2022

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Attorney-at-Law Tamieka Clarke

The Full Court of the High Court on Thursday heard and dismissed an appeal in the case of Tamieka Clarke against the Attorney General, Anil Nandlall in a case linked to her arrest by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) back in October 2022.

The attorney-at-law had appealed a decision of Chief Justice, Roxane George who ordered the Attorney General to pay Clarke damages for $700,000 and costs in the sum of $250,000.

Clarke was detained by ranks of SOCU on October 28, 2022, for under an hour at its Headquarters.

She had filed a Fixed Date Application, suing the AG for breach of her fundamental right to liberty pursuant to Article 139 of the Constitution, and sought declaratory orders and damages relating to her detention.

At the time of the incident, the Attorney General issued a public apology and made several offers to settle the matter out of court to avoid protracted litigation but these were rejected by Clarke.

The matter, however, came up for hearing on June 12, 2023, before Chief Justice, George, and the AG conceded liability on the part of the State leaving only the question of compensation to be determined.

Nevertheless, on November 17, 2023, following submissions by both parties, the Court determined the issue and ordered that SOCU apologise to Clarke, and awarded Clarke $700,000 and costs of $250,000 which was appealed.

At the High Court on Thursday, the AG objected to the jurisdiction of the Full Court to hear the appeal filed, arguing that the appeal should have been filed to the Court of Appeal as it related to a final decision of the High Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction on matters of enforcement of fundamental rights and freedoms.

After listening to submissions from both sides, the Full Court upheld the AG’s jurisdictional objection ruling that the appeal should have been directed to the Court of Appeal.

The Full Court also awarded the Attorney General costs of $200,000. The Attorney General appeared in person along with Shoshanna V. Lall, Laurel Dundas, Aruna Budhram, and Ismat Bacchus for the respondent.

On the other hand, Clarke was represented by attorneys-at-law Nigel Hughes and Shawn Shewram.

The incident, which sparked widespread condemnation and even protest action by the legal fraternity, occurred on October 28, 2022, at the SOCU Headquarters on Camp Road, Georgetown. At the time, Attorney Clarke had accompanied her client, who was under investigation by SOCU, to the agency’s office, where he was asked to sign a statement. However, the man told investigators that he was advised by his lawyer not to sign anything.

This resulted in a SOCU official accusing the attorney of preventing her client from giving a statement, and he ordered that she be arrested for obstructing an officer in the conduct of his duties. Her cell phone was taken away, and she was prevented from leaving. As such, Clarke remained detained at SOCU until her lawyer Nigel Hughes got there.

Clarke, who had previously served as a State Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), was released only after the intervention of Nandlall who had offered her a profound apology for the “unfortunate incident”.

Attorney Clarke subsequently filed a lawsuit against the State, naming the Attorney General as the respondent. She was seeking more than $300,000 in damages for, among other things, false imprisonment and violation of her constitutional rights.

Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), had recommended against filing any criminal charges against SOCU officials for Clarke’s arrest; and she had also discontinued the private criminal charges that Clarke’s counsel had filed against the officers.