NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The estate of a deceased Jamaican mother of four was awarded damages by Senior Justice Indra Charles after a nearly three-year-long civil case over her false imprisonment and sexual assault in 2014.
In 2019, Claudia Bethel filed a civil suit against five defendants claiming that she was unlawfully detained by police and Immigration officers and raped by a senior officer while in his custody.
Bethel reportedly died in May 2021 from COVID-19 complications after she gave birth to her fourth child at Princess Margaret Hospital.
She filed an action against the Attorney general, Minister of Immigration, Director of Immigration, Commissioner of Police, and Norman Bastian for aggravated damages, and exemplary damages for battery, assault, false imprisonment, and breach of her constitutional rights.
Charles acquitted the attorney general, minister of immigration, director of immigration, and the commissioner of police stating that there was just cause in the arrest itself.
The ruling read: “(Bethel) She was being arrested for “immigration purposes” as she was asked to produce proof of status before being arrested.”
Later in the proceedings, the court found that Bethel had lied to the Immigration Authorities with respect to how she met her husband, her place of employment, her profession, and her daughter being the child of her husband.
“In my judgment, they were almost exclusively related to information that she gave to obtain her spousal permit,” said the judge.
By law, if an individual is not told the reason for his arrest by the law officer upon being arrested or as soon as it is practical, the arrest is considered unlawful.
In the report, the plaintiff was aware of why she was being arrested but informed officers that she held a spousal permit.
Consequently, Bethel claimed she was unlawfully detained when she was sent to the Detention Center instead of being released to the Jamaican Consul on December 13, 2014.
She was held at the detention facility pending verification of her spousal permit until December 15, 2014.
The report stated that The Jamaican Honorary Consul, Patrick Hanlan, attempted to assist Bethel by securing her release, but was told by the senior Immigration Officer, that he was instructed to detain all of the women who were arrested that day.
According to the deceased mother, she was held captive on December 15 and 16 by Bastian in his vehicle and private residence.
As a result, Bethel filed an unlawful imprisonment case against him.
She claimed that Bastian had raped her and forced himself on her sexually while being detained.
She reported that she telephoned her husband and told him to collect her but Mr. Bastian took the phone and told her husband to meet him at the Immigration Department in 20 to 45 minutes.
At the time, she alleged that Immigration Authorities were vicariously liable for the assault and battery which was committed upon her by Bastian because he was acting in the course of his employment.
Though Bastian denied being liable for the offenses, Senior Justice Charles found him guilty of the sexual assault charges.
“Although she lied with respect to the spousal permit, I do not believe that she lied about the sexual assault”, she said.
The court ruled that Bastian acted: “on a frolic of his own when he deceived the Acting Director of Immigration that he was taking the Plaintiff to verify her correct address.
The ruling continued: “His unauthorized acts of sexually assaulting and battering the Plaintiff was not within the course of his employment and/or sufficiently close to make it right and just for the employer to be held liable under the principle of natural justice.”
“Mrs. Bethel is entitled to damages for false imprisonment for 22.35 hours, assault and battery against Mr. Bastian. Such damages are to be assessed by a Registrar and are to be personally paid by Mr. Bastian.
“Mrs. Bethel’s right under Article 19 of the Constitution had been breached. She is therefore entitled to damages from the Government for 48.55 hours.”
During the proceeding, the court extended its condolences to the family of Bethel.