19th Dec 2022


Robert Strang and Adam Riley Instructed by Freedom Law Chambers (Trinidad) for the Appellant.

Howard Stevens KC and Katharine Bailey Instructed by Charles Russell Speechlys LLP (London) for the Respondant.

LORD BURROWS (with whom Lord Hodge, Lord Leggatt, Lady Rose and Lord Richards agree):

  1. Introduction
    1. JM, who is now 19 years old, suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome (“PWS”). Typically, PWS inhibits physical and cognitive development, produces feelings of insatiable hunger leading to obesity, and is associated with behavioural problems. At the age of nine, JM was removed from the care of his mother and placed in the care of the State. He was sent to St Michael’s Boys Industrial School (“St Michael’s”), an institution for young offenders aged 10-16, even though JM was only aged nine and had neither committed, nor been charged with, any criminal offence. Some four years later, he was transferred to an adult psychiatric hospital, St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital (“St Ann’s”), despite the fact that he was still a child and that PWS is not itself a mental illness. In both institutions, JM suffered appalling physical and sexual abuse and ill-treatment.
    2. JM (through his mother) brought a claim alleging that the State, represented by the Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, had infringed JM’s constitutional rights under sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago (“the Constitution”). That claim succeeded before the trial judge, Quinlan-Williams J, who awarded JM compensatory damages of $921,200 plus vindicatory damages of $1,000,000 (throughout this judgment the relevant currency being referred to is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar). On appeal by the Attorney General, the compensatory damages were reduced by the Court of Appeal to $844,650 and it was held that no vindicatory damages should be awarded. JM now appeals to the Privy Council seeking the restoration of the compensatory and vindicatory damages awarded at first instance.
    3. The main issue, both as a matter of principle and in terms of practical importance, is whether vindicatory damages should be awarded in this case and, if so, whether the quantum of $1,000,000 is excessive. There are also issues relevant to the quantum of the compensatory damages. The correct analysis of the constitutional rights infringed (ie of JM’s cause of action) will also be examined albeit that that analysis has a limited bearing on the damages issues that are being appealed.
    4. It is helpful to set out straightaway the sections of the Constitution that are relevant. They are sections 4 and 5 which, as far as material, provide as follows:

“4. It is hereby recognised and declared that in Trinidad and Tobago there have existed and shall continue to exist, without discrimination by reason of race, origin, colour, religion or sex, the following fundamental human rights and freedoms, namely:

(a) The right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

(b) The right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law;

(2) … Parliament may not—

(a) authorise or effect the arbitrary detention, imprisonment or exile of any person;

(b) impose or authorise the imposition of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment;


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Howard Stevens KC

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Robert Strang

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Adam Riley

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Katharine Bailey

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