LBI man’s family files $50M lawsuit over fatal injuries sustained in police custody

Kallicharran Sawak

Almost three months after Kallicharran Sawak succumbed to injuries he allegedly sustained while in police custody, his sister has filed a $50 million lawsuit against government.

In court documents prepared by a team of lawyers headed by former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Shivani Sawak, in her capacity as Administratrix Ad Litem of the Estate of Kallicharran Sawak, is listed as the claimant, while the respondent is the Attorney General of Guyana.

The woman is seeking damages in excess of $10 million for death and personal injuries sustained by the deceased while in the custody of the Guyana Police Force at the Sparendaam Police Station, between January 17th, 2019, and January 21st, 2019; damages in excess of $10 million for the alleged negligence of the Guyana Police Force; damages in excess of $10 million for alleged breach of statutory duty of the Guyana Police Force owed to the deceased under the Police Act; damages in excess of $10 million for the Guyana Police Force’s alleged violation of the deceased’s fundamental right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment; and exemplary damages in excess of $10 million. The court is also being asked to award interest and costs.

According to the claim, Sawak was 39-years-old at the time of his death and had one dependent, a 16-year-old son.

It states that on January 17th, 2019, at approximately 6.15 pm, the now dead man, while under the influence of alcohol verbally abused his mother and as a result the claimant and her mother, Ramdai Sawak, lodged a report at the Beterverwagting Police Station.

At or about 6.30 pm, a contingent of Police Officers from the Beterverwagting Police Station visited the La Bonne Intention (LBI) home of the deceased and they arrested him and transported him via a police vehicle to the said station and shortly thereafter he was transported to Sparendaam Police Station, where he was placed in the lock-up.

“At the time that the deceased was arrested and taken into police custody, he was healthy and bore no injuries or marks of violence anywhere about his anatomy,” the claim said, before adding that the claimant was informed by police at Beterverwagting Police Station that the deceased would be taken to court on January 21st, 2019.

From January 17th to January 21st, 2019, the claimant says she delivered meals to Sawak at the station but was never saw him in person.

On January 21st, she attended the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court with the expectation that Sawak would be brought before the presiding magistrate but this did not occur and she was eventually informed by the presiding magistrate that the case involving Sawak would be adjourned to the following day because he was in the hospital.

The claim says the sister then visited the Sparendaam Police Station to enquire about the whereabouts of the man and was duly informed by a police officer that he was in the Georgetown Public Hospital, “that the deceased had a mental problem and as a result of which, he was placed in a cell by himself.”

According to the claim, the woman immediately explained to the officer that as far as she was aware, the deceased had no mental problem nor a history of any mental disorder whatsoever.

She and her mother immediately visited the Georgetown Public Hospital where they saw Sawak in a state of unconsciousness on a bed and attached to a life support machine. “The Claimant observed that the deceased was bleeding through his eyes, ears, mouth and nose; his face was swollen and his body was covered with stab wounds across his back, knees and hands; his hands and feet were also swollen,” the court document says, adding that he was never discharged from the hospital as he died on January 28th, 2019.

The doctor who treated the deceased, the claim notes, said the man sustained head trauma, among other injuries.

The sister, according to the claim, undertook all medical and funeral expenses. The medical expenses amounted to $17,800, while the total cost associated with the funeral was $696,048.

With regards to the particulars of the negligence, the claim alleges the failure by the Guyana Police Force to ensure that the deceased was placed in a safe environment; failure to keep the deceased safely in custody; failure to properly monitor or supervise the deceased while in custody to ensure his safety at all times; failure to intervene or properly intervene to ensure that the deceased was not injured nor injured himself;  failure to protect the deceased from injury and harm of any kind whilst in custody; and failure to take the deceased for medical care and attention in a timely manner.

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