By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
ATTORNEY Sherita Forbes has accused the Royal Bahamas Defence Force of falsely arresting, detaining and intimidating her at the RBDF’s Coral Harbour base as she attempted to counsel a marine who requested representation after he was relieved of duties and taken into custody before the force’s Intelligence Unit.
She also alleges her client’s constitutional rights were breached because he was not allowed representation.
In a letter to RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethell, National Security Minister Marvin Dames and Captain Samuel Evans, Ms Forbes said as a result she is seeking compensation for false imprisonment, the denial of her client’s rights and $800, which was forfeited because she was prevented from rendering services to her client.
The claims spark from a series of events, which took place on August 14 and August 18 involving Ms Forbes’ client, who is a leading seaman.
“On August 14, my client was summoned to the Intelligence Unit of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force for questioning for matters which were unrelated to the said force,” Ms Forbes wrote in the letter dated August 21.
“I am instructed that in the said meeting, the intelligence officers (allegedly) threatened and intimidated my client to cease and desist his pursuing a criminal action - directly linked to a civil matter - which he currently has before the courts for money stolen from him due to mortgage fraud.”
Ms Forbes alleged her client was threatened that should he not drop his action, he would be charged with libel.
Several days later on August 18, Ms Forbes claimed two officers from the Intelligence Unit of the RBDF again visited her client, relieving him of his firearm and duties. He was also taken into custody to appear before the unit for questioning at the RBDF base.
“He called me once he was informed that he was being detained and requested legal representation.”
Ms Forbes said after waiting for a period of about five minutes at the RBDF base, she and her client were informed that instructions were given for her removal from the area.
At the same time, a high-ranking officer questioned the client as to why Ms Forbes was on base, adding that he was not under arrest.
The attorney said she went on to question whether her client was being detained, but claimed she was told by a high-ranking RBDF officer the matter was one for the force. He added that an armed guard would escort her from the premises.
“I insisted that the matter of questioning was one that involved a civil matter that I had carriage of. He again stated that this is the Defence Force base, it’s a Defence Force matter and I was to be removed immediately.
“I then turned to my client and instructed him that he did not need to answer any questions without his attorney present and that he had the right to counsel pursuant to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
Ms Forbes said as she entered her car to leave she was prevented from doing so by the high-ranking officer who stood in the path of the door to her car, hindering her from closing it.
“He questioned me about my name and a card which I did not have as I had come from my Saturday (routine) to the base and again (he) insisted that this is the Defence Force base and there is no civil jurisdiction there.
“I had to insist three times for him to allow me to leave. Only after informing him that as soon as he told me to leave if I remained on the base after the invitation had been revoked then I am considered to be trespassing.
“At the time, he removed himself from the door and I was able to close it and leave the premises.”
Ms Forbes claimed the high-ranking officer forced her to remain beyond his instruction and beyond her willingness to leave.
“…Then his demeanour was that if I hit him with the car door I would have been assaulting an officer. He, himself physically detained me by false imprisonment.”
The attorney said she was informed her client was interviewed on matters which she was directly involved in as his attorney and that he was also cautioned the matter was recorded in a similar way as are criminal investigations.
As a result, Ms Forbes said she is of the view that her client’s constitutional right to have legal counsel was breached by the RBDF.
Ms Forbes further said she expected a response to these matters within seven days.