Two years on, rock-throwing lawsuit remains unresolved

A lawsuit filed in February 2012 over an arrest in connection with repeated rock-throwing incidents in Bodden Town has failed to come to court for more than two years.

According to court records obtained by the Cayman Compass, a trial date for the case, estimated to last three to four days, was to have been set “for the first available date in the New Year i.e. 2013.”

A tentative hearing date in July for the lawsuit has been discussed, but was not set by press time. The attorney representing the woman suing in connection with her arrest in the case has confirmed that settlement talks have been ongoing for some time. However, no one representing the attorney general’s office, which is acting on behalf of the government, had made any statements regarding the delay.

The matter dates to 2007, when large rocks, some alleged to be half cement blocks, were hurled at Ben McLaughlin’s home on Kipling Street in Bodden Town, over a period of more than a year, causing injury to him and members of his family and damaging his property.

At various times, police officers investigating the matter were either hit by rocks or rocks fell in their general vicinity.

In 2008, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service arrested a woman on two occasions in connection with the rock throwing when, according to the February 2012 lawsuit, they could not have “reasonably suspected that it was [the woman] who had committed the offense of rock throwing either at the McLaughlin residence or at the police.”

“The officers’ hand-cuffing and man-handling [the woman] was oppressive, arbitrary and unconstitutional,” according to the lawsuit filed on Feb. 21, 2012, in the Cayman Islands Grand Court.

According to court records, police officers went to the woman’s home during the first arrest incident, noting the woman raised her voice in protest to the officers but that no offensive language or swearing was reported. She had just gotten out of the shower, according to court records. “The officers forced their way onto the [woman’s] premises, pushing [her] back physically and arrested [her] on suspicion of assault causing actual bodily harm, whereupon they pull off the [woman’s] towel leaving her naked … and ordered her to dress in a bathrobe.”

At the time of her alleged wrongful arrest by police in 2008, the female suspect was 60 years old. Despite her slight build – she is barely 5 feet tall and weighs less than 120 pounds – she was accused by police of hurling large rocks onto the roofs of houses in the Kipling Street area.

The rock throwing incidents were well-publicized in the local press between 2007 and 2008.

According to court records, there were 34 various complaints made to the police between October 2007 and February 2008 “with no apparent police success in apprehending the criminal or criminals involved.”

“Some of the rocks thrown were said to be ‘half cement blocks,’” the lawsuit stated.

The claims made in the lawsuit have not been proven in any court of law. They are denied in a response to the lawsuit filed by the defense on behalf of the commissioner of police and the attorney general.

The officers involved in the separate arrests, one in May 2008 and one in June 2008, are accused of numerous breaches of legal and professional procedures, as well as potential criminal acts and violations of basic civil rights against the plaintiff, the woman who was arrested in connection with the rock throwing.

The Compass has not revealed the name of the woman who filed the suit, nor has it identified any of the police officers involved, due to legal reasons.

The case against the woman was dismissed in 2009. Some of the officers involved in the arrest and subsequent confrontations with the woman have since left the RCIPS.

In the lawsuit response by the defense, filed on April 20, 2012, the actions of the police officers affecting the arrests on May 15 and June 30, 2008, are called “lawful.” The response also sought to remove the police commissioner as a defendant, since all lawsuits against the government are generally filed against the attorney general as defendant.

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