What Shanique Myrie v The State of Barbados Teaches Us About The Award of Damages Under The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Regime

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Shanique Myrie, a Jamaican national, had claimed that prior to deportation from Barbados to Jamaica in 2011, she was subjected to a body cavity search and detained in an unsanitary cell overnight. She had also claimed that she was discriminated against on the basis of her nationality. As a result, she asked the Caribbean Court of Justice (“the Court”) to make an Order for Barbados to pay special and punitive damages and an Order for the recovery of all her legal costs. The Court considered the matter applying the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (“the RTC”) and a 2007 Decision of the Heads of Government of CARICOM.

According to the Court, in order for a claim for damages to succeed, the Claimant must show that the RTC provision breached was intended to benefit her, the breach must be a serious one, the damages or loss should be substantial and there should be a causal link between the breach by the State and the loss or damages claimed.

The Court stated that under the RTC regime, the damages that can be awarded by the Court are compensatory. There is no place for exemplary or punitive damages before the Court in its original jurisdiction. The Court referred to the case of Trinidad Cement Limited TCL Guyana Incorporated v. The State of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana [2009] CCJ 1 (OJ) where this principle was established. The reason behind this is, the civil law jurisdictions in the Community do not allow for the award of exemplary damages and therefore this remedy cannot be a part of a legal structure that embraces both traditions.

The compensatory damages that can be awarded in international law are those for pecuniary loss or damage and non-pecuniary loss or damage. Pecuniary loss or damage means that such loss or damage can be calculated in terms of dollars and cents.  For example, you may claim that your bag which you bought for S50.00 was destroyed and therefore ask to be compensated $50.00 for the loss and damage. It follows that non-pecuniary loss or damage cannot be quantified in monetary terms. This type of compensation is usually for mental suffering, injury to feelings, humiliation, degradation, loss of social position or damage to reputation.

The Claimant claimed the sum of JA $112,000.00 for the airline ticket and medical expenses. This amount was not challenged by Barbados and the Court held that she was entitled to that amount for pecuniary damages.

The Court was of the view that the body cavity search and the conditions of her overnight detention constituted a very serious breach of her right to enter Barbados free of hassle and harassment. The Court then sought to determine whether this treatment was sufficiently related to the exercise of her right of entry. The Court found that the breach of the right encompassed all that took place at the airport in Barbados between the time of her arrival there and her deportation the following day.

The Court pointed out that it was not awarding damages for human or fundamental rights breaches; neither was it seeking to create an appropriate remedy for assault or unlawful detention since these are not causes of action actionable before the Court in its original jurisdiction. The Court stated that it was instead awarding damages for breach of the right to enter Community States without harassment and hassle. The Court was of the view that there must be a high award of damages for the breach since it was accompanied by serious circumstances.

Consequently, the Court ordered the State of Barbados to pay the Claimant Bds $2,240.00 (JA $112,000.00) for pecuniary damages and Bds $75,000.00 for non-pecuniary damages. The Court also ordered the State of Barbados to pay the Claimant’s legal costs.

                                                                                                                                         – Kara-Je Kellman

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