Activist to bring case against state
THE COURT ruled this week that immigration charges brought against Luzette King amount to an abuse of process.
This is a move that gives way for King, a Vincentian/American social activist, to claim malicious prosecution and false imprisonment against the state, her legal team submits.
The legal battle between King and the state stems from an incident that occurred on January 30, 2021. King arrived at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) from Miami but had apparently not fixed a stay at a quarantine facility for her 14-day mandatory quarantine.
At the time she had said in a Facebook live, “They offered me two choices, one, I was to book a 14-day quarantine there and then, or go back on the plane, and yes, I ran to hell out (of the airport), because I thought my taxi would have been there and I would have gone in that taxi.”
She was apprehended by airport personnel and brought back. Following this she was deported on the same plane that had brought her to St.Vincent from Miami.
On February 6, she returned to SVG, and was subsequently accused of breaching immigration and customs regulations and protocols.
She was charged that on January 30, 2021 at AIA, upon arriving into the state of St Vincent and the Grenadines, she did impede carrying out a search of anything which is liable for search by not presenting herself to a customs officer, contrary to Section 101(1b) of chapter 422 of the revised laws of SVG.
Further, that she failed to produce her bags to the customs officer as required by the Customs Control and Management Act.
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne, in her analysis of the application by the defence to stay the proceedings on account of abuse of process, also highlighted the prosecution’s admission that King was never charged under the Public Health Act.
“The defendant – who according to the prosecution breached health protocols of the state - was not charged for having so breached. She was only charged for immigration and customs violations,” the magistrate noted.
“After considering the facts before the court, the court grants the application to stay the proceedings before the court on account of abuse of process,” Browne commented.
The allegation was that King had breached Section 72 of the Public Health Act.
“This was the allegation that the defendant failed to comply with. The defendant having been barred from clearing Immigrations and Customs, the charges brought against her for contravention of these seem spurious. Given the facts as outlined in the case, the charges would amount to an abuse of process,” she explained.
Lead of the legal team, senior lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste said outside the Serious Offences Court (SOC) on Tuesday, October 26, following Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne’s decision: “I raised preliminary objection in this matter that the whole matter was an abuse of process because the state had wrongfully deported Miss King without going through due process.”
She argued that after deporting her client, “they waited until she came back and then charged her for the same offence that they had deported her.”
“I said that it was an abuse of process, and the proceedings should be stayed. We gave our submissions, the prosecution defended it. They had to admit that she was detained for breach of the Public Health Law, but they did not charge her under the Public Health Law.”
“It is clearly, clearly that this was an abuse of process,” Bacchus-Baptiste, who was accompanied to the court by counsel Maia Eustace, also on King’s legal team, said.
She believes that under these circumstances it was victimisation.
“I’m grateful that she has been cleared and she now can bring an action against the Government for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. I hope she will,” King’s lawyer expressed.
King herself said, “It’s not often that I can’t find words to express how I feel but…that process of going back, I was escorted to the plane by police, and to come back and say that I have to prove I was deported, it’s painful.”
She thanked her legal team, put together by her relatives, activists Kenson King and Adriana King, “…This matter will not be left, I don’t know who tell these people that Luzette King will lie down and play dead. It will not be left. So I have nothing else to say until the lawyers come together and advise me the steps forward,” she said.