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Attorney sues State over unlawful arrest and detention by SOCU

Attorney-at-Law Tamieka Clarke

Attorney-at-Law Tamieka Clarke has mounted legal action against the State over her unlawful arrest and detention by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) on October 28.

Through her battery of lawyers, headed by Nigel Hughes, Clarke is asking the High Court to declare that her fundamental right to personal liberty, as guaranteed and protected by Article 139 of Guyana’s Constitution, was breached by servants/agents of SOCU.

“A declaration that the detention and seizure of [Clarke’s] cellular phone l Organised Crime Unit on the 28th day of October 2022, without the permission of the Applicant and without lawful excuse was wrongful,” the Fixed Date Application, which listed the Attorney General as a respondent stated.

Moreover, the Attorney is seeking $200,000 in damages for her wrongful arrest, detention by SOCU, and false imprisonment.

She is also asking for $100,000 in damages due to her fundamental rights and freedoms being breached, which is guaranteed under Article 40 of Guyana’s Constitution.

In fact, she is also claiming exemplary damages for a threat made by an SOCU officer to arrest her on October 25 and for her arrest on October 28 for attempting to pervert the course of justice on the ground of her advising her client to remain silent during questioning.

On October 28, Clarke was arrested and detained by SOCU and subsequently released after she advised her client to remain silent, which is a part of his rights.

The lawyer’s arrest sparked condemnation by various associations, including the Guyana Bar Association (GBA), the Organization of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Associations (OCCBA), and even the main Opposition – the APNU+AFC Coalition.

The Police Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) was ordered to launch an investigation. Two hours before a planned protest in front of SOCU on Camp Street on Friday, the Head of the Force’s Communications Unit, Mark Ramotar, revealed that OPR had completed the investigation.

Notwithstanding, the protest went on, and GBA's President Pauline Chase, told reporters:

“This is not a lawyer issue. Yes, you see lawyers out here, but this is a wider issue. It is a rule of law issue, it is a fundamental right issue [...]. The right to counsel. The right to remain silent is ingrained; these are non-negotiable rights, and it affects us all.”

Commenting on the protest, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall said he had received a pre-action letter from a lawyer purporting to represent Clarke in which $50 million was being demanded by her in lieu of a lawsuit for the violation of her rights, among other things.

He, however, contended that the sum is “exorbitant” and “excessive,” given that Clarke was only arrested and detained for about 10-15 minutes. But Clarke, after being released, said she was detained for almost an hour.

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