Kenyan Man Illegally held, beaten at Detention Awarded $640k in damages


Kenyan Man Illegally held, beaten at Detention Awarded $640k in damages  

Kenyan Man Illegally held, beaten at Detention Awarded $640k in damages  
Douglas Ngumi. Photo/Courtesy: Terrel W. Carey Sr-Tribune Staff

Kenyan Diaspora man Douglas Ngumi who endured cruel and inhumane treatment during an unlawful six-and-a-half-year imprisonment at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre in Nassau, Bahamas, has been awarded a record $641,950 in damages by the Supreme Court.

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It is the largest award of its kind in the country’s history.

Justice Indra Charles awarded Mr Ngumi $386,000 in damages for false imprisonment, assault and battery, $50,000 in aggravated damages, $100,000 in exemplary damages, $105,000 in constitutional damages by way of compensation and vindication and $950 in special damages. She delivered her ruling on Friday.

Justice Charles said although Mr Ngumi was lawfully arrested in January 2011, authorities’ failure to charge and arraign him within the statutory period and to deport him within a reasonable time rendered his six-and-a-half-year detention unlawful.

She said the testimony and evidence Mr Ngumi brought to the trial were credible and mostly unchallenged since government lawyers did not call witnesses or produce evidence in the trial.

Mr Ngumi, 49, testified last year that he arrived in the Bahamas in 1997 to visit a family friend studying at the College of the Bahamas.

He said he later married Gricilda Vanessa Pratt in 2000. He said she reluctantly applied for a spousal permit for him in 2001 that he never received. The couple are now estranged but not divorced.

Mr Ngumi said in 2005 he received a work permit but his application for renewal was denied. He claimed that to avoid violating immigration laws he frequently travelled to Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas between 2006 and 2011.

Arrested by immigration officers at his home in 2011, Mr Ngumi was taken to the Magistrate’s Court where he pleaded guilty to overstaying. A magistrate recommended he be deported to Kenya but that never happened.

On June 4, 2012, he was arraigned at the Magistrate’s Court on possession of dangerous drugs. A magistrate again recommended deportation after he pleaded guilty to the offence. He testified last year that the drugs were planted on him. He said he only pleaded guilty so he could go back to the detention centre and not be sent to prison.

A habeas corpus application, which requires officials to bring a detainee to court, was filed on his behalf on July 20, 2017 and he was released from the detention centre on August 4, 2017.

Mr Ngumi cried during last year’s testimony as he discussed his treatment at the detention centre. One episode in particular was recounted in detail: he said he was stripped naked, tied, handcuffed under a table and beaten repeatedly with a PVC pipe.

“(My back) was so sore some people had to wipe the pus out of my back,” he said. “The next days after, they were using tissue, taking the pus out of my back. I wasn’t taken to the hospital.

“This man wasn’t stopping,” he said. “I don’t know what happened to him but he was just upset with something. He was just beating and beating and beating. Somebody had to tell him, ‘We gon’ call the police for you if you don’t stop beating him.’”

Mr Ngumi recalled three occasions when teargas was used on detainees.

“If you can’t breathe, they don’t help you,” he said.

Damning the conditions of the facility, he said one dorm held 500 people even when it had a capacity for only 50. He said the bathroom wasn’t clean, the toilet never flushed and detainees were forced to drink dirty water. He testified that over the years he contracted pink eye and a “scratching disease”.

Mr Ngumi said when he left the detention centre in 2017, he was soon diagnosed with tuberculosis and was eventually detained for eight months at Princess Margaret Hospital.

He said he was homeless for several weeks after he was released from PMH. He said he lost his identification documents in the detention centre.

Justice Charles said although immigration officers had reasonable suspicion to arrest Mr Ngumi without a warrant, he was not charged within the statutory period of 48 hours. She also said he should have been deported as soon as practical as the magistrate initially recommended.

She said three months would have been sufficient time within which he should have been deported. She did not accept the defendants’ claim that Mr Ngumi refused to cooperate to return to Kenya and that he could not be released into the Bahamian community because of national security concerns, noting the defendants did not support these claims with evidence at the trial.

Attorney Fred Smith, QC, sought $11 million in damages for Mr Ngumi, believing this would send a strong message to authorities. However, Justice Charles found this request “fantastical”. In deciding on appropriate damages, she relied heavily on the case of Atain Takitota, a Japanese national who was arrested by immigration officers in 1992 and spent eight years in the maximum-security wing of the Fox Hill prison without charge. He attempted suicide at least three times.

Justice Charles said Mr Ngumi’s treatment was not as appalling as that of Mr Takitota, who was awarded some $500,000 in damages in 2006 by the Court of Appeal.

“I owe a great depth of gratitude particularly to Mr Smith, QC, for his extensive research and formidable submissions,” she said in her submission. “He has truly enlightened the court on matters of this nature.”



Kenyan Man Illegally held, beaten at Detention Awarded $640k in damages

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