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Case details

Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago (Respondent) v JM (A minor by his kin and next Friend Nicoda Mitchell) (Appellant) (Trinidad and Tobago)

Case ID: JCPC 2022/0018

Jurisdiction: Court of Appeal of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Case summary

Issue

Whether the Court of Appeal erred in law in: (i) setting aside the judge’s award of vindicatory damages; (ii) finding that JM had been lawfully detained at St Michael’s between September 2012 and June 2014; (iii) not awarding damages in respect of that detention; (iv) finding that JM had not been subjected to cruel and unusual treatment; (v) setting aside the judge’s assessment of the quantum of damages for JM’s detention at St Ann’s.

Facts

In this case a minor claims damages for breach of his constitutional rights while in the custody of the State. The appellant, JM, has Prader–Willi syndrome and was a minor during the events described below. Prader–Willi syndrome is a rare and complex genetic disorder that often produces difficult behavioural problems. In September 2012 JM, then 9 years old, was removed from his mother’s care and placed into State custody. JM’s mother, NM, had been arrested and charged with child abandonment and neglect and was later convicted.

JM was placed at St Michael’s School for Boys where he remained for some years. JM’s care plan was not consistently implemented at St Michael’s, and he suffered from repeated bullying and physical abuse by other residents and staff. He nonetheless remained there until October 2016, when he was transferred to St Ann’s. Staff at St Ann’s struggled to manage JM’s challenging needs. In October 2017, after an application by NM, now acting as JM’s kin and next friend, JM was transferred to a Child Support Centre.

JM, acting by NM, then issued a claim against the respondent, representing the State of Trinidad and Tobago. The claim sought a declaration that JM’s detention at St Michael’s and/or St Ann’s and the State’s failure to provide a licensed Community Residence breached his constitutional rights and freedoms, as well as monetary compensation, including vindicatory damages. The trial judge found in favour of JM and ordered that the State pay compensation, including vindicatory damages for the breach of JM’s constitutional rights. The respondent appealed. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in part and substituted a new order for that made by the trial judge. JM now appeals to the JCPC.

Parties

Appellant(s)

JM (A minor by his kin and next Friend Nicoda Mitchell)

Respondent(s)

Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago

Appeal

Justices

Lord Hodge, Lord Leggatt, Lord Burrows, Lady Rose, Lord Richards

Hearing start date

13 October 2022

Hearing finish date

13 October 2022