A Jamaican spent 9 yrs in Bahamas jail despite never being convicted of crime. He now seeks $27m

Mildred Europa Taylor Sep 11, 2020 at 08:00am

September 11, 2020 at 08:00 am | News

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

September 11, 2020 at 08:00 am | News

Matthew Sewell and his attorney immediately after his release in 2015. Photo: Eyewitness News

A Jamaican national who was falsely imprisoned for more than nine years in The Bahamas is in a legal battle with the government, asking to be awarded $27 million in damages. Matthew Sewell was first detained at the age of 18 in 2006 after he was accused of raping a six-year-old girl. For two years, he was detained at The Bahamas Department of Correctional Services before he was granted bail in 2008.

Three years later, Sewell was charged with rape once again and remained in custody for over four years without trial. In August 2013, he was granted bail and the rape charges from 2006 and 2009 were dismissed.

But two months later, the Jamaican national was arrested for housebreaking allegations, and while he was on bail for that charge, he was told that he was wanted for murder. Sewell was therefore taken back into custody albeit never being formally charged with that offense, Jamaica Observer reported.

Sewell is now suing the government for damages pertaining to false imprisonment, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and breaches of his fundamental rights under the Constitution, according to Eyewitness News.

He is also seeking $27 million in damages. This week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bowe-Darville struck out the defense filed by the government respondents and gave judgment to Sewell for all of the claims set out in his writ. The court scheduled a hearing on October 28 for the assessment of damages.

“We are very pleased that the court has given judgment in favor of Mr. Sewell in relation to his claims of abuse over the nine years and nine months,” Sewell’s attorney, Fred Smith, told the Tribune newspaper.

“To put this in perspective, the court has held that Mr. Sewell was falsely imprisoned for 3,568 days illegally. That is a chunk of nearly a decade stolen from Mr. Sewell at the age of 18 years old until he was 28. It baffles a civilized mind to think that between the Government, prison, police, and immigration authorities, Mr. Sewell’s rights were repeatedly abused.”

Smith said during the many years in and out of jail, his client suffered so much as he had his nose broken and one of his eyes nearly being gouged out. Sewell has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, Smith told the newspaper.

“This young man has been forever scarred by the inhumane and degrading treatment he received for nearly 10 years in the clutches of a system of institutionalised civil crimes against humanity.

“This kind of case reflects savagery, ignorance and inhumanity, which really is internationally embarrassing to The Bahamas.”

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