Crown: Raid on doctors can’t be declared unlawful

| 05/11/2020
Cayman News Service
Customs and Border Control officer

(CNS): The Attorney General’s Chambers has argued that the court cannot declare that the actions of customs and police officers who wrongly raided a medical centre prescribing medicinal cannabis oil were unlawful because they were acting in accordance with a warrant. Nigel Gayle, representing the crown in the judicial review brought by Doctors Express, claimed that even if the warrant was defective, the officers were still acting lawfully.

The licensed clinic was treating patients with legally imported medicinal cannabis oil. But as the case continued Wednesday, Gayle submitted that the warrant, which the AG’s Chambers have previously accepted was defective, that was used for a bust on the clinic did not make their actions wrong.

While the judge queried the government lawyer’s position and urged him to look closely at the arguments he was making, the crown’s defence in this case appears to focus on trying to suggest that there can be no liability for anyone involved because they followed the rules of a warrant, regardless of whether or how the warrant was planned, obtained, issued and executed.

He said the officers were not liable for anything, adding that the court could not declare that they did anything they should not have done because they acted in accordance with the warrant, regardless of how it was obtained.

Gayle blamed the problems arising in the case on the justice of the peace who signed the warrant and who is also part of the legal action. The elderly woman, who is unwell and being represented via legal aid separately from the crown, has claimed that she was misled and signed at the direction of officers who sought the warrant.

Evidence presented by Doctors Express indicates that the warrant was obtained on the basis of misinformation and some questionable circumstances. Nevertheless, Gayle argued that because the officers who executed the warrant followed its terms, the raid at the surgery was not wrong in law.

The armed police and customs officers who raided the clinic and took the stocks of cannabis oil and vapourisers used to dispense the medicine did so based on a stop notice issued by the chief medical officer, which the doctors argue was also unlawful, another element that the crown has disputed.

Despite the clear problems with the warrant and the notice, the AG’s Chambers are continuing to fight the action brought by Doctors Express on what appears to be, as the case unfolds, shaky ground and are focusing on the justice of the peace.

This is not the first time that the courts have had to deal with warrants issued by justices of the peace without legal training and who are not given full details of a case by investigating officers.

In this judicial review, the clinic contends that the lead investigating officer from the customs department deliberately sought a warrant under misleading circumstances in order to seize their stocks of legal medical cannabis on a false assumption of the legality of how it was being dispensed.

They argue that this effort to criminalise a lawful medical practice led to a catalogue of errors and unlawful behaviour by all of the parties, which not only led to them losing their stocks of cannabis oil but caused considerable damage to the reputation of the medical centre and its licensed physicians.

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