Chris Jones files lawsuit against State over barbershop scandal
Opposition Parliamentarian Christopher Jones has filed a lawsuit against the State for unlawfully searching his home and seizing barber chairs, air-conditioning units and other equipment. He claims the action of the Police was a violation of his constitutional rights and he is asking the High Court to grant an order for items to be returned.
The lawsuit was filed by Jones’ attorneys Nigel Hughes, Ronald Daniels and Kezia Williams against the Acting Commissioner of Police Nigel Hoppie, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum, Inspector Rodwell Sarrabo, Assistant Superintendent of Police Chibanauth Singh; Corporal Singh and the Attorney General Anil Nandlall. The legal proceedings were filed on August 31, 2020.
Jones is seeking damages in excess of $100,000 for his 16 barber chairs and two air conditioning units valued at $4.8 million.
The former Director of Sports is also seeking damages in excess of $100,000 for trespass to his home at 609 Conciliation Drive, Tucville, Georgetown, along with another $100,000 for his wrongful arrest on August 21, 2020.
In his statement of claim, Jones started that August 20, 2020 at or about 18:30hrs during a power outage, the police who were armed, cordoned off his premises and demanded entry without informing him of any lawful reason for permitting them to do so and without a warrant.
Jones said that he requested production of a search warrant which the police failed to provide which led him to deny them access to his premises.
With the aid of his attorneys Jones made application to the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature for and was granted an interim conservatory order dated and entered on August 20, 2020 restraining the police entering and searching his premises.
Jones claimed that although the order was in effect, on August 21 around 00:30hr, the police trespassed on his premises by jumping the fence and wrongfully seized his barber chairs and air conditioning units.
He further claimed that the police wrongfully restrained, arrested and detained him.
The police transported him to various police stations and thereafter wrongfully restrained and imprisoned him in a cell at the Diamond Police Station, he claimed.
Jones is also seeking to be awarded for exemplary damages since the execution of the search, entry and arrest were violent, aggressive, arbitrary, unconstitutional and devised to invoke, and did invoke fear into him and his family.
Additionally, his lawyers are contending that the armed police officers and the cordoning off of Jones’ home was unjustified and disproportionate to the offence he is alleged to have committed.
The lawyers argued that the actions of the armed police ranks caused humiliation of Jones, who is a public figure.
Finally, Jones is asking the court to declare that his constitutional rights were breached and is also asking for the interest on all damages awarded; costs and any such further or other orders the court sees fit in the circumstances.
The News Room had reported that an audit conducted showed that under the previous government, the Ministry of Social Protection approved the disbursement of $4.8 million under the Region Four administration for the procurement of equipment for a barbershop under the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme.
However, a description of the SLED project under the then Ministry of Communities had stated that it was meant to cover community-based projects with a per capita investment of approximately $400,000.
Jones, in a live interview with some media houses, said he applied for a “loan” from SLED; however, the project does not offer loans, but cash grants, which does not have to be repaid.
Jones said he applied for funding to buy 16 chairs, air-conditioning unit, and other equipment and was granted the project under then Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally.
The project description states that SLED works by distributing interest-free cash grants to registered groups and associations, needing the economic boost to improve their economic enterprises.
A Financial Return presented revealed that the full amount was spent by December 31, 2019, but almost $1 million in items were not actually delivered and the project was not executed and some of the equipment was stored at Jones’ home.