US Coast Guard had no power to search Jamaican boat, court rules

(Jamaica Gleaner) The Supreme Court has ruled that the United States Coast Guard does not have the power under the law to search Jamaican flagged vessels which are docked in the island and are under the custody of local law enforcement.

Supreme Court judge Justice David Batts made the order yesterday when he granted declarations and constitutional redress to Kingston businessman David Chin.

Batts held that Jamaican law enforcement acted unlawfully and without reasonable or probable cause when they allowed US Coast Guard personnel to assist them in searching Chin’s fishing vessel Lady Lawla, while it was docked in Jamaican waters and under the control of the security forces.

The judge found it significant that the US Coast Guard felt uncomfortable when Chin voiced his objection to his vessel being searched by them.


Batts said perhaps the US Coast Guard recognised the inappropriateness of the conduct and was well aware that foreign forces would not, in their own country, be invited to board a ship of their nation while it was safely in port and under the control and custody of US law enforcement.

The security forces said the decision to allow the US Coast Guard to join in the search was made because local law enforcement did not have the necessary equipment and expertise to adequately analyse all the space on the vessel.

The court was told that in October 2009, Chin and a crew of six fishermen left Kingston and went to a fishing bank outside of Jamaica’s territorial waters to purchase fish. Chin purchased over 33,000 pounds of fish.

The Jamaican Coast Guard had reported that they had received intelligence that the vessel was going to bring in cocaine from South America.

When it returned on November 20, the vessel was intercepted and ordered to the local base of the Coast Guard in Port Royal. It was searched, but no contraband was found. The vessel was detained and the help of the US Coast Guard was sought to assist in a further detailed search.

Chin was represented by attorneys-at-law Bert Samuels and Roxanne Mars.

Chin was awarded special damages of $225,000 for legal fees and $500,000 in general damages.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning:

Most Read This Week

  1. Ramesh Manbodh

    Man beaten with bat passes away

  2. Bibi Shareema (left) and her mother Bibi Shameela in
happier times

    Greenwich Park woman died 44 days after brutally stabbed by ex-partner

  3. Bharrat Jagdeo

    Meeting of Cabinet at GDF HQ pilloried by Jagdeo

  4. Fast food lovers inside KFC yesterday

    KFC back in business

  5. The building housing the home and grocery

    Bandits invade Alness businessman’s house, shots fired

  6. Alimudeen Gobin’s demolished house

    Violent storm lashes No. 19 Village

  7. The ganja found in Prashad Nagar (Police photo)

    Police find 52 lbs of ganja in Prashad Nagar house

  8. The AK 47 and ammo found (Police photo)

    AK 47, ammo found behind wardrobe

  9. tensions

    Player tensions with WICB reaching breaking point: Sir Viv

Recommended For You