Attorney General v Wilson

JudgeBlair-Kerr, P.,Duffus, J.A.,Luckhoo, J.A.
Judgment Date12 March 1980
Neutral CitationBS 1980 CA 16
Docket NumberCivil Side No. 10 of 1979
CourtCourt of Appeal (Bahamas)
Date12 March 1980

Court of Appeal

Blair-Kerr, P.; Duffus, J.A.; Luckhoo, J.A.

Civil Side No. 10 of 1979

Attorney General

Tort - Wrongful arrest — Penal Code, s. 104(1)

Damages - Damages — Wrongful arrest

Blair-Kerr, P.

The respondent claimed damages for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment. Judgment in the sum of $1750 with costs was given in his favour; and against that decision the Attorney General now appeals.


The respondent gave evidence in support of his claim and the appellant called two witnesses, Constable Williamson and Munroe.


The respondent is a Justice of the Peace for the Bahamas and, for the last 10 years, he has been a supervisor for Security Services with the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation. Prior to that he served for 24 years as a member of the Bahamas Police Force and rose to the rank of Deputy Superintendent.


On 25th September, 1976 he was visiting a Miss Rolle, a lady by whom he has had three children, at her home in Domingo Heights off East Road when the two police officers- Williamson and Munroe — arrived at the premises. The judge's note of the respondent's evidence reads:–

“One of them told me they had come to see miss Rolle…. I asked the constables if they could tell me what they wanted to see her about. They repeated they wanted to see Miss Rolle. I invited them into the house. Reluctantly they came in. I offered them a seat. They refused to sit. Miss Rolle carne into the living room and sat on a sofa. As soon as she sat Williamson rushed over to her and threw a letter at her and said: “This your letter.” He said this twice. He then rushed towards the door. I blocked the front door and said to him “this should not be done this way.” She ought to know what the letter is all about.” He got by me, he passed me. I attempted to hold his hand. He pulled his arm away and his tunic ripped under the armpit. He went into the yard. Munroe was leaving the house then. In the yard Williamson turned and pointed a finger at me and said, “I'll be back.” Munroe and Williamson left. I took up the letter that was thrown at Miss Rolle and looked at the envelope, and read its contents. After reading the letter I phoned police control to get certain information I then drove my car towards the Grove Police Station.”


He then said that on the way he was stopped by a police patrol and that Munroe, who was in a private car with Williamson and a Mr. Arlington Munroe, told him that he was under arrest. However, he was permitted to drive his own car to the police station. At the station he saw Corporal Rolle. The respondent was detained for 2 hours and charged with (1) assaulting Williamson in the execution of his duty and (2) unlawfully causing damage to Williamson's white tunic. The two charges were dismissed by a magistrate on 27th September, 1976.


The respondent stated in his evidence-in-chief that he had asked Corporal Rolle at the station why he had sent Munroe and Williamson to Miss Rolle's house. The judge's note reads:

“I asked Corporal Rolle what he had sent Constables Munroe and Williamson to Miss Rolle's house to do. He said he had sent them to warn Miss Rolle.”


Giving evidence Williamson said:

“I was sent with Constable Munroe to see Miss. Rolle in connection with a complaint made at the station by Arlington Munroe… Before I gave Miss Rolle the envelope Constable Munroe told her that Mr. Arlington Munroe wanted her to be warned not to molest him again. We then left the room and went into yard on the way. Before leaving the plaintiff asked me what was the meaning of the letter. I told him that Miss Rolle had been warned by the officer. On reaching the steps I felt someone grab my right hand and pull me around. I noticed it was the plaintiff. My tunic was torn at the armpit. I was frightened. I told him he had assaulted me.”


The judge's note of Munroe's evidence reads in part:–

“On 25/9/76 Mr. Arlington Munroe made a complaint I got instructions and proceeded to Domingo Heights with Williamson to make inquiries of Miss Rolle in connection with Mr. Munroe's complaint…. I saw Miss Rolle I told her that a complaint had been made against her by Mr. Arlington Munroe. I told her that Mr. Munroe said they were doing some business together and that each time he came to the house she attacked him and he wanted the police to warn her not to attack him again. Miss Rolle did not say anything. Williamson handed Miss Rolle a sealed envelope. She accepted it. Mr. Wilson intervened and caused the envelope to drop from her hands…. I told Miss Rolle not to make such threats of harm to Mr. Munroe. I then left for the door and got outside. Williamson had got to the door and stood there. I passed him and went outside. There are about two steps in front of the door. Williamson was stepping down the step when the plaintiff came up behind Williamson, held him by his right hand, and turned him around. His tunic was torn… I went back up the steps after Williamson, told the plaintiff that he was under arrest. He closed the door…. We went to car and called police patrol as I needed assistance.”


In his judgment the learned judge said: -_

“The facts on which the plaintiff bases his claim and which I found to be established by the evidence adduced before me are as follows:–

“… the plaintiff had occasion to go to Miss Rolle's home… He saw two constables, Munroe and Williamson in the yard in front of Miss Rolle's home. Munroe or Williamson told the plaintiff that they wanted to see Miss Rolle. He asked them to tell him why they wanted to see Miss Rolle. They refused. He invited them into the sitting room and offered them a seat. They entered the house. Shortly thereafter Miss Rolle came into the sitting room. Williamson ‘rushed over to her, threw a sealed envelope at her and said: “This is your letter”. He then rushed towards the front door where the plaintiff was then standing. The plaintiff ‘blocked the door’ and told Williamson: “This should not be done this way. She ought to know what the letter is about.” Williamson ‘got by’ the plaintiff, who, at that point, attempted to hold Williamson's hand. The latter pulled his hand away and by some means, which remains unexplained, the thread in part of the armpit of Williamson's shirt sleeve tunic was torn. The two constables then left the premises. Williamson having said to the plaintiff “I'll be back.” I pause here to note that the envelope delivered to Miss Rolle and which was admitted in evidence was addressed to Miss Rolle and bore the name of a firm of attorneys-at-law.”


The envelope was put in evidence by the respondent. If, as appears likely, the letter was one from a firm of attorneys warning Miss Rolle to desist from some alleged course of conduct, it was admissible not, of course, to prove the truth of the allegations, if any, in it but to corroborate the police officers evidence that Arlington Munroe had made a complaint to the police against Miss Rolle.


However, the respondent did not choose to tender the letter in evidence, and we are therefore entirely in the dark as to its contents.


Having made his findings of fact regarding the delivery of the letter, the learned judge then made his findings as regards to the subsequent arrest of the respondent on the way to the police station and his being detained and charged there.


Having regard to the fact that the respondent said that, in answer to his question, Corporal Rolle informed him that he had sent the two constables to warn Miss Rolle, I find it a little surprising that the learned judge made no specific reference to the evidence of Munroe and Williamson to the effect that, prior to Williamson delivering the letter, Miss Rolle had been warned by Munroe not to molest Arlington Munroe. It is very unfortunate because although it is common ground it is not part of a police officer's duty to act as a postman delivering letters to members of the public, it is the duty of the police to prevent breaches of the peace, and to warn persons who are alleged to have done so, to desist from doing so. Mach light would have been thrown on the whole situation if the contents of the attorney's letter had been made available to the court. But, even on the evidence as it stands, it would appear that Arlington Munroe caused that letter to be written by a firm of attorneys and requested police assistance to warn Miss Rolle not to molest him further; and, according to the respondent, Corporal Rolle ordered the two constables to warn Miss Rolle as a result of Arlington Munroe ‘s complaint.


Mr. Barnwell who appeared for the respondent on this appeal did not submit to us that the learned judge had impliedly rejected the police officers evidence to the effect that, prior to the delivery of the letter, Munroe had warned Miss Rolle not to molest Arlington-Munroe. My note of his submission is that “the warning had been given before (Williamson, gave the envelope. Having completed what they had been sent to do, (Williamson) then embarked on something outside his function “(that is to say the delivering of the letter)”. Counsel's submission was that the incident involving the alleged assault arose as a result of the manner in which Williamson delivered the letter.


The learned judge prefaced his findings of fact by saying: “The facts on which the plaintiff bases his claim and which I found to be established by the evidence adduced are as follows:” Can it be said that he impliedly rejected the evidence of the officers that Munroe warned Miss Rolle not to molest Arlington Munroe? I do not think so, having regard to the fact that the evidence of the complainant himself was that Corporal Rolle said he had sent the officers to warn Miss Rolle. Therefore, whatever criticism may be made of their behaviour as related by the complaint, I do not see how it can be said that the officers were not on duty.


The learned judge...

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