By Nico Scavella
Tribune Staff Reporter
A SUPREME Court judge has ordered the government to pay over $60,000 to a civil servant after finding that two police officers were wrong for breaking into his Yellow Elder Gardens home in 2015, putting a shotgun to his forehead and subsequently arresting him in their search for someone who did not live there.
Justice Indra Charles ruled that Gilford Lloyd, a senior fisheries enforcement officer at the Department of Marine Resources, is to receive $60,987.90 in damages for the “humiliation” he experienced as a result of the “undignified” way he was treated by two armed officers on January 9, 2015, at his home.
And that amount, Justice Charles said, was not reflective of the $20,000 in costs she awarded to his attorneys Christina Galanos and B’Jorn Ferguson.
Last year, Justice Charles ruled that Mr Lloyd was wrongfully assaulted, unlawfully arrested and falsely imprisoned by two members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) under the supervision of Police Chief Superintendent Theophilus Cunningham.
Legal action was launched against Chief Supt Cunningham, the commissioner of police, and the attorney general, alleging that Mr Lloyd suffered severe shock and mental anguish.
According to court documents, Mr Lloyd testified that on the night of January 9, 2015, he was home alone and went to bed early. The television was on, but otherwise his house was in complete darkness.
However, at around 10pm he heard a banging on what sounded like his front door. He did not respond right away as he was startled, and thought the banging was coming from his neighbour’s house as he was not expecting anyone.
After having lowered the volume on the television, Mr Lloyd got up to go to his front door. As he was approaching his bedroom door, someone placed a shotgun to his forehead and instructed him to get down. He said the person identified himself as a police officer but, as it was dark, he could see the individual.
Mr Lloyd said he complied with the demand and rested on his stomach. At this point, he realised there were two men in the house, which he could tell from their voices.
While he was on the ground, one of the men asked him his name and date of birth which he gave. Then one of them told him to get up. Mr Lloyd got up but was so scared he wet himself. When he asked permission to go to the bathroom the two officers laughed at him, however he was allowed to do so.
After he was finished using the restroom, one of the officers said “wash your hands”, which he did. Then one of the men said, “cuff him”. Mr Lloyd said he placed his hands behind his back and they cuffed him. However, he said he began to wonder what the police wanted from or of him since he was almost 60 years old at the time and had never committed an offence in his entire life.
The two officers then took him outside, where he saw about seven to eight police cars and police officers blocking the road. Mr Lloyd said the officers took him to Chief Supt Cunningham who instructed him to stand at the side of one of the police cars. Chief Supt Cunningham was standing about eight to 10 feet away from him.
Mr Lloyd said while he was standing at the side of the police vehicle, he saw an officer escorting his neighbour Nelson Sweeting in his direction in handcuffs. After placing Mr Sweeting next to Mr Lloyd, Chief Supt Cunningham asked the former for “Dominic”, and Mr Sweeting replied by saying that Dominic lived through the next corner and that the officers had come through the wrong corner.
Mr Lloyd said at this point Chief Supt Cunningham looked annoyed. A few seconds later, the chief superintendent instructed an officer to remove Mr Sweeting’s handcuffs and about 30 minutes later, he instructed that his handcuffs also be removed. Nonetheless, Mr Lloyd said he felt “quite humiliated, embarrassed and ridiculed” as a few spectators saw him in handcuffs.
And upon returning to his residence, he realised that his brand new front door had been damaged.
Mr Lloyd testified that before the incident, he did not know the chief superintendent but had heard officers referring to him as Chief Supt Cunningham. About a week later, he googled the name “Chief Supt Cunningham” to see if any images came up on the person he was looking for, and immediately one did.
According to the ruling, Mr Sweeting, who was housed at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services, gave evidence that supported Mr Lloyd’s claims.
However, Chief Supt Cunningham, the only witness to testify for the Crown, said he was not present at Mr Lloyd’s residence and he thus could not and did not authorise any police officers to arrest, assault, imprison or damage his property. Chief Supt Cunningham also testified that from October 2014 to March 31, 2015, he was one of the officers in charge of uniform operations responsible for the eastern area of New Providence, that is, every area east of East Street, which did not include the area of Mr Lloyd’s residence.
Chief Supt Cunningham further asserted there was no information or reports to indicate any uniform operations had been conducted in the Yellow Elder Gardens area on the night in question and that no police officers were at Mr Lloyd’s property that night or at all.
The senior officer further maintained he does not know Mr Lloyd and contended Mr Lloyd was mistaken that he was present on the night in question. He also testified he has never conducted uniform operations in his khaki uniform nor would he wear a bulletproof vest as he always wore his camouflage overalls.
Despite what she said was a “difficult task” to “determine who is telling the truth when the evidence is so divergent”, and despite a “few discrepancies” in the evidence of both Mr Lloyd and Mr Sweeting, Justice Charles said in her 2017 ruling that she accepted their evidence as they “corroborated in large measure”.
She further found Mr Lloyd to be a “sincere, calm, composed” man who was “unwavering in his evidence”.
She ultimately said she was satisfied that Mr Lloyd was wrongfully assaulted, wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned by Chief Supt Cunningham.
During brief proceedings yesterday, Justice Charles awarded Mr Lloyd special damages in the amount of $987.90. She also awarded him $10,000 for unlawful entry, $30,000 for false imprisonment and $20,000 in exemplary damages.
She also said Ms Galanos’ claim for $20,000 in costs was a reasonable figure, and thus awarded her that amount.
Kenrah Newry represented the Crown in the matter.