‘I faced the Supreme Court by my­self and won!’

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - Christo­pher Thomas Gleaner Writer

Man wins civil suit in high court with­out le­gal as­sis­tance

WEST­ERN BUREAU: T IS AL­MOST un­heard of for per­sons to win law­suits in the Ja­maican Supreme Court with­out a lawyer to rep­re­sent them, but An­drew Rash­ford ac­com­plished ex­actly that in Oc­to­ber of this year, de­spite not hav­ing a high school or univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion to his name.

“I had to do all the le­gal pa­per­work,

Iand draft ev­ery­thing from scratch, by my­self, with­out le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. When I was 18 years old I could not spell my last name, I had never been to univer­sity or sec­ondary school or high school, and if I could do it with­out a lawyer, I think a lot more of us can do it,” 44-year-old Rash­ford, a farmer from My­ersville in St. El­iz­a­beth, said while out­lin­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence to The Sun­day Gleaner.

Rash­ford was the claimant in a law­suit filed in 2012 against the of­fices of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral and the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice, fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent where the po­lice seized a mo­tor­cy­cle from him while claim­ing it had been re­ported stolen, although he had in fact legally pur­chased the ve­hi­cle.

“I bought a mo­tor­cy­cle from Su­pe­rior Parts Ltd in Kingston, and I went some­time in Jan­uary 2012 and paid $145,000 at Su­pe­rior Parts in Mon­tego Bay, and the bal­ance was $105,000,” Rash­ford ex­plained. “I had the mo­tor­cy­cle for two and a half months and did not come up with the bal­ance of money within a rea­son­able time, and one of the sales reps asked the po­lice to come and seize the mo­tor­cy­cle from me.”

LAW­FUL JUS­TI­FI­CA­TION

Ac­cord­ing to him, the po­lice seized the mo­tor­cy­cle and took him into cus­tody on May 30 that same year, though he was re­leased the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

“They (po­lice) told me the mo­tor­cy­cle was re­ported stolen in Man­dev­ille, and that was the rea­son they gave for seiz­ing it. I was re­leased the next morn­ing, and I went back on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and spoke to sev­eral in­spec­tors about the mo­tor­cy­cle, which I be­lieved they took away with­out law­ful jus­ti­fi­ca­tion,” said Rash­ford.

His next step was to file a suit in the St James Par­ish Court (then known as the Mon­tego Bay Res­i­dent Mag­is­trate’s Court) against the of­fi­cer who had de­tained him, but when he failed to get sat­is­fac­tory re­dress there, he sought to take the mat­ter be­fore the Supreme Court.

“I filed a law­suit against the po­lice of­fi­cer in the Mon­tego Bay Res­i­dent Mag­is­trate’s Court in June 2012, and on three court ap­pear­ances, the of­fi­cer did not turn up,” Rash­ford re­counted. “The judge failed in her duty to sub­poena the po­lice­man to come to court, so I sought ad­vice from ci­ti­zens in Mon­tego Bay, ask­ing, ‘how could I find the Supreme Court?’ and I was di­rected to Kingston.”

ENOUGH CON­FI­DENCE

He added: “Upon go­ing to Kingston and find­ing the Supreme Court, I went into the Civil An­drew Rash­ford with a copy of the judg­ment that was handed down in his favour, in the law­suit which he brought against the po­lice and the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral, and which he won with­out the aid of a lawyer.

Di­vi­sion and told them I would like to take out a case against the Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice and the At­tor­ney Gen­eral. They said, ‘Sir, you have to get a lawyer; you can­not want to sue the state with­out a lawyer to rep­re­sent you.’ I said, ‘I be­lieve I have enough con­fi­dence within my­self and can bring a civil ac­tion as a lit­i­gant.’ So I was sent to the court li­brary, and that is where I started to read up about the case.”

Although Rash­ford had no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion be­yond the train­ing he re­ceived at a church­school in Mon­tego Bay and a JA­MAL in­sti­tute in St El­iz­a­beth, that did not stop him from read­ing as much as he could about the finer points of the law.

“I drafted nu­mer­ous claims I had made – for un­law­ful seizure of the mo­tor­cy­cle, false im­pris­on­ment, defama­tion of char­ac­ter, breach of the Hu­man Rights Act, and nu­mer­ous other claims,” shared the de­ter­mined man. “I filed the mat­ter in the Supreme Court in July 2012, and I had to draft the doc­u­ments with all the le­gal points of law.”

His mat­ter was even­tu­ally tried in the Supreme Court in Septem­ber 2016, but it did not get off to a smooth start.

“On the day of trial, Septem­ber 28, 2016, the first judge as­signed to the case walked off the case pre­ma­turely ... it seemed the judge found me dif­fi­cult to deal with, but I was rep­re­sent­ing my­self and I fig­ured I was ar­gu­ing on a le­gal point, as the de­fen­dants’ lawyers gave me 11 doc­u­ments, but when they did the

bun­dles for the trial, they had an ad­di­tional 16 doc­u­ments, and when I found out I was op­posed to it,” said Rash­ford.

“The judge tried to en­cour­age me to get a lawyer, and I re­frained to ac­cept her en­cour­age­ment, and be­cause she said she never did a case with a lit­i­gant in per­son be­fore, she was go­ing to dis­charge her­self from the case.”

The case was even­tu­ally heard over the next two days, Septem­ber 29 and 30, be­fore High Court judge Kis­sock Laing, and a rul­ing was handed down in Rash­ford’s favour on Oc­to­ber 6, though he has yet to re­ceive the mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion he was awarded.

FUN­DA­MEN­TAL RIGHTS

“I was awarded $50,000 for il­le­gal search; $200,000 for loss of the mo­tor­cy­cle, although in fact they awarded me $145,000, which was the de­posit I had paid; and an­other $55,000 for loss of use of the mo­tor­cy­cle,” Rash­ford out­lined. “I think I could have ac­quired more ... but I did not ar­gue any points on that, since I saw the court was in my corner.”

He be­lieves, based on his ex­pe­ri­ence, that if other Ja­maicans with court cases fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the law, they can rep­re­sent them­selves in­stead of hir­ing lawyers.

“I would say to fel­low Ja­maican ci­ti­zens who be­lieve that their fun­da­men­tal rights may be in­fringed or abused by agents of the state, that they can sue the state with­out hav­ing to go out there and pay big money to lawyers. You just need ba­sic knowl­edge of the case,” said Rash­ford.

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