Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George had found that the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) breached the “fundamental right” of Attorney-at-law Tamieka Clarke when she was arrested last year October for advising her client to remain silent.
On October 28, 2022, Clarke was arrested and detained by SOCU and subsequently released after she advised her client, who was under probe by the agency, 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.
Clarke, who previously served as a State Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), subsequently mounted a legal action against the State over her unlawful arrest and detention by SOCU.
The attorney had sought $200,000 in damages for her wrongful arrest, detention by SOCU, and false imprisonment.
She also wanted $100,000 in damages due to her fundamental rights and freedoms being breached, which is guaranteed under Article 40 of Guyana’s Constitution.
But in her ruling, the Chief Justice stated that Clarke’s fundamental right to personal liberty as guaranteed and protected by Article 139 of the Constitution was breached by SOCU.
Besides, Justice George said that the detention and seizure of the attorney’s cellular phone by officers of SOCU without permission and lawful excuse was “wrongful.”
The Chief Justice held the view that an attorney-at-law admitted to practice in Guyana is entitled to advise a client to remain silent when questioned by any lawful enforcement agency.
“An Attorney at law entitled to practice at the Bar in Guyana is entitled to consult with his/her client in private without the contents of the consultation being recorded in any way, including by means of audio-visual recording by any law enforcement agency in Guyana or elsewhere,” Justice George said in her ruling.
As for the issue of the quantum of damages, September 19, 2023, has been set for further submission.