The Bahamas Supreme Court has awarded a record $641,950 in damages to a Kenyan man for unlawful detention.
Douglas Ngumi was subjected to cruelty during illegal six-and-a-half-year imprisonment at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre in Nassau.
Justice Indra Charles on Friday ruled that although Ngumi was lawfully arrested in January 2011, failure by authorities to charge him within the statutory period and to deport him within a reasonable time rendered his incarceration illegal.
She added that the evidence presented by the complainant in court was credible and unchallenged since State attorneys failed to call witnesses or produce evidence during the trial.
As a result, the judge awarded Ngumi $386,000 in damages for false imprisonment, assault, and battery, $50,000 in aggravated damages, $100,000 in exemplary damages, $105,000 in constitutional damages by way of compensation and vindication, and $950 in special damages. This is the largest award of its kind in the Caribbean country’s history.
Ngumi, 49, told the court that he arrived in the Bahamas in 1997 to visit a family friend studying in one of the country’s colleges.
Three years later, he married a Bahamian woman named Gricilda Vanessa Pratt, who reluctantly applied for a spousal permit for him in 2001 that he never received. The two are now estranged but not divorced.
Ngumi added that he successfully applied for a work permit in 2005 but his application for renewal was denied.
To avoid violating immigration laws, he told the judge that he often traveled to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas between 2006 and 2011.
In 2011, he was arrested by immigration officers at his home and was arraigned at a Magistrate’s Court where he pleaded guilty to overstaying. The court recommended he be deported to Kenya but that never happened.
He was arraigned at the Magistrate’s Court in June 2012 over alleged possession of dangerous drugs. He pleaded guilty to the offense and the magistrate for the second time recommended deportation.
Last year, he testified that drugs were planted on him and that he only pleaded guilty so he could be taken back to the detention center instead of prison.
In July 2017, a habeas corpus application, which requires officials to bring a detainee to court, was filed on his behalf and he was released from the detention center on August 4th, 2017.
During last year’s hearing, Ngumi shed tears in court as he painfully narrated the mistreatment he endured at the detention facility.
He recounted how he was stripped naked, tied, handcuffed under a table, and beaten repeatedly with a PVC pipe.
“(My back) was so sore some people had to wipe the pus out of my back. The next days after, they were using tissue, taking the pus out of my back. I wasn’t taken to the hospital.
“This man wasn’t stopping. I don’t know what happened to him but he was just upset with something. He was just beating and beating and beating. Somebody had to tell him, ‘We gon’ call the police for you if you don’t stop beating him.’”
He testified that over the years he contracted pink eye and a “scratching disease” and upon being released, he was diagnosed with TB and was eventually detained for eight months at Princess Margaret Hospital.